Dan Wiederer began covering the Vikings in 2011, enthusiastically delivering insight on the team across the Star Tribune's print and digital products. Prior to joining the Access Vikings team, he spent seven seasons covering ACC basketball at The Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer. He also covered the Chicago Bears in 2003 and 2004. Follow him on Twitter @StribDW.
Mark Craig has covered football and the NFL the past 20 years, including the Browns from 1991-95 and the Vikings and the NFL since 2003. Since 2008, Craig has served as one of the 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. He can be followed on Twitter at @markcraignfl.
By Mark Craig
MANKATO -- Some highlights from reporting day while melting away in Mankato (Zulgad saying he's now down to his eighth-grade weight) ...
Coach Leslie Frazier said:
Other highlights ...
Keep checking back. Judd could be bringing more highlights later on.
The Vikings have agreed to terms with nose tackle Remi Ayodele on a three-year, $9 million deal, according to an NFL source.
The agreement comes on the same day the Vikings are expected to announce that they have released defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy. Nose tackle Pat Williams also is a free agent and might not return. Kennedy was expected to be his replacement at one time.
Ayodele, 28, has spent three seasons with the Saints and finished last year with 21 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble. He started all 16 games for the first time in his career. In 2009, he started 13 of the 15 games in which he played and had 30 tackles and 1.5 sacks.
Ayodele, whose brother Akin plays in the NFL, was part of a Saints defense that was 16th against the run last season, giving up 112.3 yards per game. Remi Ayodele, however, was considered to be strong against the run and likely will step into the first- and second-down role (at least) playing alongside Kevin Williams.
The Saints replaced Ayodele by signing Shaun Rogers to a one-year deal in early March before the NFL lockout.
The 6-2, 318-pound Ayodele went undrafted in 2006 and then bounced from New England to Baltimore to Dallas to Atlanta. Ayodele's name should ring a bell with Vikings fans. He was the player who hit quarterback Brett Favre in the upper body during the 2009 NFC title game while Bobby McCray hit Favre low in the third quarter. Favre suffered a sprained ankle on the play and the NFL later admitted a penalty should have been called.
Ayodele also had a key fumble recovery in the Saints' overtime victory over the Vikings. That set up a 5-yard touchdown pass from Drew Brees to Reggie Bush that gave New Orleans a 28-21 lead early in the fourth quarter.
The Vikings can not officially sign Ayodele until 5 p.m. on Friday and he can't practice until Aug. 4 when the collective bargaining agreement is expected to be ratified. The Vikings also have agreed to terms with journeyman wide receiver Devin Aromashodu, who had been with the Chicago Bears.
Free-agent addition: The Vikings signed undrafted free-agent running back Alexander Robinson out of Iowa State. The Vikings now have 15 undrafted free agents signed. The move came a day after Kentucky running back Derrick Locke failed his physical with the Vikings. Locke ended up signing with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Another busy day at Winter Park, so let's get right to it.
Kicker Ryan Longwell has agreed to terms on a four-year contract to return to the Vikings after being on the free-agent market, according to NFL sources.
The veteran won't be able to sign the deal until Friday and can't practice until Aug. 4 because that's when the NFL Players Association will recertify. Longwell's new deal is worth $12 milion and includes a $3.5 million in guarantees.
Longwell, 36, joined the Vikings as a free agent in 2006 after nine seasons with the Green Bay Packers. Last season, he made 17 of 18 field goals and 30 of 31 point-after attempts. Longwell has made 113 of 129 field-goal attempts since joining the Vikings and was 26 of 28 in 2009 as the team went to the NFC title game. With kickoffs being moved from the 30- to the 35-yard line this season Longwell becomes more valuable because his touchbacks will increase.
Longwell is the first of the Vikings' free agents that the team has retained. Given that Longwell signed quickly it's clear the team put a priority on keeping him.
The Vikings also are known to be trying to keep wide receiver Sidney Rice, who has drawn strong interest from Seattle and reportedly also is on the Rams radar. On Tuesday, the Vikings came to terms on an agreement with free-agent wide receiver Devin Aromashodu, who had been with the Chicago Bears.
Starting weak-side linebacker Ben Leber is another of the of the Vikings free agents but he said in a text message this afternoon that there is nothing new to report about his situation. It's also believed that talks have not started with veteran nose tackle Pat Williams, whose chances of returning appeared to increase when Jimmy Kennedy was told he would be released on Thursday.
The Vikings began to clear salary-cap space on Tuesday, informing veteran defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy that he would be let go.
Kennedy, 31, revealed that he would be cut on his Twitter account. "Viking fans, thank you for accepting me as your own, but I'm sorry to inform you I am no longer with the team. I love you guys."
Kennedy actually can't be let go until Thurday afternoon when the waiver period will begin for the 2011 league year. Kennedy joined the Vikings late in 2008 when it looked as if defensive tackles Pat and Kevin Williams could be suspended for violating the NFL's anti-drug policy in what turned into the StarCaps case.
He played in 13 games, primarily as a backup in 2009, and then was signed to two-year contract before last season. Kennedy, though, appeared in only nine games in 2010 and had little impact on the defense.
The Vikings shave off a $2.5 million cap hit by letting him go. The most recent reports put the Vikings at $4.3 million over the $120 million salary cap.
The decision to jettison Kennedy leaves the Vikings thin at nose tackle, especially if 38-year-old Pat Williams is allowed to leave as a free agent. The Kennedy move could be an indication the Vikings will try to bring back Williams on a one-year deal.
“It definitely was a surprise," Kennedy said when reached on the phone. "I appreciate the opportunity that the Vikings gave me. I think it’s a fantastic organization that allowed me to be Jimmy Kennedy so you go out there and play next to great guys like Jared [Allen], Kevin [Williams] and to learn in year nine, be proud to call myself Pat Williams’ apprentice, was fantastic for me. It definitely was a shock and a surprise [to be released].
"I talked to d-line coach [Karl Dunbar] last night. He was talking positive and everything was great. The conversation today, like literally, we were stunned. I love the team, I love the Vikings. Like I said, I thank God for the opportunity [from the Vikings] to even deal with me and allow me to show my talent and I wish them the best.”
Kennedy was the 12th overall pick in the 2003 draft by the St. Louis Rams but never lived up to expectations. He also has played for Denver, Chicago and Jacksonville.
The Vikings also have informed wide receiver Freddie Brown that he will be released.
Also, as expected, the Vikings have been in talks with the agent for free-agent safety Eric Weddle, who has been with San Diego. However, the talks between David Canter and the Vikings seem to be very exploratory at this point.
Weddle's preference is to remain in San Diego but he recently listed the Vikings, Jacksonville, Dallas and Carolina as potential landing spots if he does leave.
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