With former Seahawks defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson signed, sealed and champing to change into purple, Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman finally exhaled and turned his attention from the frenzied first wave of free agency to next month's NFL draft.
"The three biggest boxes we wanted to get checked were the offensive coordinator, quarterback and an under tackle," Spielman said Friday afternoon. "We were able to accomplish those three."
A day after quarterback Kirk Cousins signed a record three-year, fully guaranteed $84 million deal, Spielman landed the 27-year-old Richardson with a one-year deal that will pay him $8 million and a chance to make $3 million more in incentives.
Meanwhile, the team also reduced running back Latavius Murray's $5.15 million cap number, released veteran receiver Jarius Wright for a $2.64 million cap boost (while carrying $2.1 million in dead money) and closed the book on 33-year-old defensive tackle Tom Johnson, who started 15 games for the No. 1-ranked defense a year ago.
And with that, Spielman headed home for his first good night's sleep since free agency began on Monday.
The plan, he said, was to wake up Saturday morning and spend the weekend huddled up with coach Mike Zimmer watching film of the defensive backs in this year's draft.
Zimmer actually was in his office watching film of the rookie class of three-technique tackles when he was first introduced to Richardson during his visit.
"Sheldon has been — and even was this past season — one of the most disruptive defensive linemen in the NFL in terms of getting the quarterback off the spot," Zimmer said. "He didn't have a lot of sacks last year [one], but sacks are not our No. 1 goal. It's about disrupting the quarterback."
Richardson was a first-round draft pick of the Jets in 2013. He was NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and had 16½ sacks after three seasons. But the past two years have included 2½ sacks, a trade from the Jets to Seattle, a good but not great 2017 season, and concerns about his character.
Richardson had interest from other teams, including Seattle, but preferred a one-year deal with the Vikings so he could prove himself on a team built to contend for the Super Bowl.
"It's the best building in the league," Richardson said when asked why he didn't leave to visit other teams. "Everything around here is top notch. Beautiful stadium. I see myself making a lot of plays in there."
Spielman said he trusts the coaching staff to get the most out of Richardson's talent and passion for the game, so long as Richardson accepts his coaching.
"One thing we talked about with him," said Spielman, "was is if you put yourself in the right situation with the right team, with the right coaches, there's no reason you shouldn't be in the Pro Bowl year in and year out."
The character concerns stem from incidents three years ago. Richardson was suspended for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. Two weeks later, he was arrested in Florida after driving faster than 140 mph while street racing.
Police reportedly found a loaded handgun and indicated the car smelled of marijuana. No drug or gun charges were filed, and Richardson was found guilty of reckless driving and resisting arrest. The league then suspended him for one game.
"We did a lot of research on that," Spielman said. "That was 2½, three years ago. We talked to a ton of people about it. And after spending almost two days with him, I felt very confident that him coming into this culture, into our locker room, that he'll fit right in."
The big fella also appears to have a swagger befitting the No. 1-ranked defense.
Asked how it'll feel to play the Jets this year, Richardson smiled and didn't sidestep.
"They got to come see me," he said. "That's it. Seattle, too. They got to come see me, too."