Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson is expected to sign with the Cleveland Browns when NFL free agency officially begins at 3 p.m. Wednesday, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Richardson, who played 16 games for the Vikings last season, will reportedly earn $21.5 million guaranteed on a three-year deal worth up to $39 million. The price was likely too steep for the salary cap-strapped Vikings.
Richardson, 28, parlayed a one-year contract in Minnesota into another payday. He tied for third on the team with 4.5 sacks last season and 14th among all NFL defensive tackles in pressures (47), which is a combination of sacks, hits and hurries, according to Pro Football Focus. It made him one of the top interior defenders on the market.
The Vikings wanted to retain Richardson, but could not afford to pay market value for both Richardson and linebacker Anthony Barr. The Vikings agreed on a five-year, $67.5 million deal with Barr on Tuesday.
“If we can afford them, we’re going to bring them back,” coach Mike Zimmer said at the NFL scouting combine last month. “If we can’t afford them, we’re going to have to move on, unfortunately.”
They’ll move on from Richardson with a depth chart featuring Linval Joseph, Shamar Stephen, Jaleel Johnson and Jalyn Holmes. Defensive tackle Tom Johnson is a pending free agent. Stephen is returning to Minnesota from Seattle after one season after agreeing to a three-year deal this week. More talent could be added this spring.
Stephen, a 2014 seventh-round pick, got $6 million guaranteed from the Vikings on a three-year deal worth up to $12.45 million, according to a league source. Stephen was a well-rounded defender in four seasons for the Vikings. He can provide competition at both defensive tackle spots.
Murray, Bridgewater going to Saints
The Vikings are in the market for a backup running back after Latavius Murray agreed to terms with the Saints, a league source confirmed. Murray’s four-year deal, which can’t be signed until 3 p.m. Wednesday, is expected to be worth up to $14.4 million.
Murray, 29, proved to be an effective security blanket behind Dalvin Cook in Minnesota. He started 19 of 34 games, including two playoff games, since signing as a free agent two years ago. Murray averaged 3.9 yards per carry while totaling 1,488 yards and 15 touchdowns.
“Thank you to the Vikings organization for giving me an opportunity to do what I love to do,” Murray wrote on Instagram. “My time in Minnesota has been unforgettable because of the fans, the community and most importantly because of the guys in that locker room. Thank you for being the birthplace of my first child and spoiling my family with those Minnesota nice vibes. Nothing but love.”
Former Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is expected to re-sign with the Saints, according to the NFL Network. Bridgewater reportedly declined a two-year, $10 million offer from the Dolphins to remain as a backup to Drew Brees. Terms were not revealed.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.