Andre Smith couldn’t pin down one reason why he signed with the Vikings.
Speaking on a conference call today, Smith first said he was just looking for an opportunity to compete for a starting job. Then he said he wanted to join a winner. And then he cited the presence of coach Mike Zimmer, whom he said was “like a father figure” during their overlapping days in Cincinnati.
In the end, the free-agent tackle got all three with the Vikings, plus a one-year deal worth up to $4.5 million that included $1 million guaranteed.
“I’m just trying to take advantage of what I have in front of me right now,” the 29-year-old said. “Yeah, it’s a one-year deal. But it’s an opportunity for me to join a great team and I feel like I can make this team better.”
Smith will compete with veteran Phil Loadholt and second-year lineman T.J. Clemmings for the starting right tackle spot. The 6-foot-4, 335-pound right tackle started 73 games at that position in seven seasons with the Bengals.
“[The Vikings] have some really good linemen there right now and I just want to come in and compete for a starting position,” Smith said.
Smith, who visited Minnesota on Sunday and Monday, said his relationship with Zimmer was one of the deciding factors in choosing the Vikings over the Cardinals, though he admitted that no visit with the Cardinals, who might not have ever been serious suitors, was ever scheduled.
“[Zimmer] made it feel like it was a great place for me to be at,” Smith said. “It just felt like home and I felt like it was a better opportunity.”
Now that Smith has officially signed with the Vikings, he is looking forward to blocking for Adrian Peterson and protecting Teddy Bridgewater.
“It’s good to have Adrian Peterson in the backfield,” he said. “Those one- or two-second blocks can turn into a touchdown. You have one of the greatest running backs ever in the backfield. … And with Teddy, [I’ll] just protect him and keep him upright so he can make the best decisions as possible.”