From practice squad to starter, Mike Remmers returns to Minnesota as one of the Vikings’ answers for the previously glaring void at tackle.
They bring two new starting tackles into the fold after signing Remmers on Friday, committing $10.5 million guaranteed on a five-year deal worth up to $30 million during a free-agent visit at Winter Park.
Remmers’ first stint with the Vikings lasted just five weeks in 2013 when he was claimed off waivers only to occupy a roster spot. Three teams later, the 27-year-old Remmers fills the Vikings’ need at right tackle with newly signed Riley Reiff expected to start at left tackle.
“I have developed a lot more since then,” said Remmers, who started 42 straight games for the Panthers. “I think just the crazy ride it’s been for me has really helped me develop to be the person and player I am today.”
Reiff signed a lucrative five-year contract with $26.3 million guaranteed, most of which he’ll receive in the next two seasons. The 28-year-old Reiff received an $11 million signing bonus and can earn a max of nearly $60 million in the deal.
Along with Reiff, Remmers is looked upon by the Vikings to bring stability to one bookend of an offensive line that lost four tackles to injury or retirement last season. Durability wasn’t an issue for the 6-5, 310-pound Remmers in Carolina, where he didn’t miss a game to injury since taking over as starter in 2014.
His rise happened after years of uncertainty. Remmers, undrafted in 2012 out of Oregon State, bounced between six teams in five seasons. Familiarity with the Twin Cities and the Vikings organization helped lure him back to Winter Park, where he stayed Friday to sign instead of proceeding with a scheduled visit with the Texans in Houston.
Remmers credited his wife, Kelly, for buoying his NFL dream through the doldrums before he found a consistent opportunity in Carolina for 2½ seasons.
“My wife has been very supportive. She’s always been there for me,” said Remmers, who will wear No. 72. “She’s helped me keep my head up, because there were definitely some times where I thought I was done playing football. I’m just very happy and thankful to be continuing my career.”
Swaps with the Panthers continued Friday when former Vikings receiver Charles Johnson signed a one-year deal. The Vikings will be looking for a new slot cornerback after Captain Munnerlyn agreed to a four-year deal for $21 million with his former team in Carolina. Also, receiver Cordarrelle Patterson will visit the Raiders.
Remmers will start at right tackle, where he’s most comfortable after playing out of position last season as the Panthers’ replacement left tackle. He shouldn’t have to worry about protecting Sam Bradford’s blind side, a challenge tasked to Reiff, the former Lions tackle who started three seasons (2013-15) on the left side before he was moved to the right last year.
Like the other top free-agent tackles, Reiff said he had plenty of suitors and called his first dive into free agency “flattering to have a bunch of interest.”
That forced the Vikings to pay up — and they did.
Reiff’s $26.3 million guaranteed is more than ex-Viking Matt Kalil’s reported $25 million in Carolina and more than double what the Vikings had previously committed to an outside free agent under head coach Mike Zimmer — Linval Joseph’s $12.5 million in 2014.
“It’s kind of been a hectic last few days,” Reiff said. “I’m excited to be up here, that’s for sure. Being from South Dakota, it’s close. I always watched the Vikings growing up. They’ve got a great tradition, and I’m excited about the hunting and fishing up here, too.”
Reiff, from Parkston, S.D., is an Iowa graduate and will wear No. 71. He already received a call from a fellow South Dakota native and Hawkeyes grad, Chad Greenway, upon arrival in Minnesota. Another follower — his mother, Jo — was also proud as “a big Vikings fan,” Reiff said.
“She’s really happy right now.”
Staff writer Matt Vensel contributed to this report.