Center Garrett Bradbury is the most notable newcomer to the Vikings lineup. Here are some other key additions to the 2019 team:
Josh Kline, guard
Kline is a lesson in perseverance. He made 21 starts for the Patriots, and won a Super Bowl ring after the 2014 season. A year and a half later, he was cut by New England while trying to return from shoulder surgery.
He responded with two solid seasons for the Tennessee Titans, earning a four-year contract extension. A year later, they asked him to take a pay cut. He refused and, 69 NFL starts into his career, was released.
Kline, 29, resurfaced with the Vikings in free agency, and is strictly looking ahead. “I don’t like to talk about the past that much,” he said.
Kline is fine speaking briefly about the present. He is the Vikings’ answer at right guard on a three-year, $15.75 million contract signed during an offseason makeover of the interior line, which saw Mike Remmers cut, Pat Elflein moved to left guard and center Garrett Bradbury drafted 18th overall.
Undrafted out of Kent State, Kline has been hard on himself as he enters his seventh NFL season. He called his play “sloppy” during the Vikings’ tuneup exhibition against the Cardinals. That attitude has allowed Kline to fit into an offensive line that wants to improve on last year’s uneven showing.
“I love this team,” Kline said. “We got a bunch of hard workers and guys doing whatever it takes to help the team. That’s what it takes to have success in this league.”
As a veteran, Kline is keen on the new offense’s concepts, which are heavy in outside zone running and play-action.
“A veteran presence, a guy who’s won football games,” coordinator Kevin Stefanski said. “He’s really working hard. You see his skill set matches what we’re trying to get done.”
Irv Smith Jr., tight end
The Vikings want more than receptions from Smith, the second-round pick (50th overall) out of Alabama. He may be featured as the No. 2 tight end in an offense that wants to lean on heavier personnel groupings and is without blocking specialist David Morgan for the time being.
“We are asking a lot of him,” assistant head coach Gary Kubiak said. “You look at Irv and you look at Garrett [Bradbury], what we are asking of them on the offensive side of the ball. We are asking it very quickly.”
Alexander Mattison, running back
Mattison had 641 touches in three seasons for Boise State, showcasing the durability that made him a third-round pick (102nd overall) for a Vikings offense that needs reliability behind oft-injured starter Dalvin Cook. The rookie has become the clear No. 2 option during practices and preseason games, taking 25 carries for 89 yards as the lead back while Cook was held out of all but two series this preseason.
“It’s been great for me, just building chemistry with the offensive line,” Mattison said, “and learning from them while we’re playing.”
Olabisi Johnson, wide receiver
The surprise of training camp was Johnson, a seventh-round pick (247th overall) out of Colorado State who earned a roster spot after a strong preseason in which he caught two passes for 35 yards and a touchdown in the opener against New Orleans.
Johnson (6-0, 204 pounds) has shown to be a quick study and effective on special teams, including a 36-yard kickoff return, and could be active on Sundays to help in the punt and kick return phases.