Soon after the Vikings signed former Titans receiver Tajae Sharpe to a one-year, $1 million contract this week, he received a phone call from offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak. Among the subjects of that call was how Sharpe’s familiarity with Packers coach Matt LaFleur ultimately could help him fit in Minnesota.
LaFleur’s first NFL job was as an offensive assistant in Houston from 2008-09 while Kubiak was the head coach there. His indoctrination in a system similar to the one the Vikings use continued when he worked for Mike Shanahan in Washington from 2010-13. Before becoming the Packers’ head coach in 2019, he spent a year calling plays in Tennessee, where Sharpe’s work in LaFleur’s offense gave the Vikings something of a baseline for how he’d fit under Kubiak in Minnesota.
“When I got the pleasure to talk to Coach Kubiak yesterday, we kind of spoke briefly and he was telling [me] Matt LaFleur kind of grew up under him, so some of the language may be familiar to what I’m used to hearing,” Sharpe said in a conference call Thursday. “So that’s always a good thing when you don’t have to completely start from scratch as far as learning the offense if you hear certain words and certain terms that may be familiar to you that you kind of puzzle together, that’s always a big help.”
The Vikings have five picks in the first three rounds of a draft thought to be stocked with wide receivers, so Sharpe’s addition could represent only the beginning of an effort to add to the position after trading Stefon Diggs to Buffalo last week. In the meantime, though, Sharpe gives the team a receiver with four years of NFL experience — the second most among wideouts on the roster behind Adam Thielen — and a player who’s familiar with the Vikings’ style of offense.
He becomes the second former Titan to sign with the team in as many years, following guard Josh Kline in 2019. Sharpe’s most productive year in Tennessee was his rookie season in 2016, when he caught 41 passes for 522 yards and two touchdowns. He missed all of 2017 because of a foot injury, and attributed his production decline the past two seasons to coaching staff changes that precipitated new receivers coming to Tennessee.
“Having a new head coaching staff different from what I had my rookie year, coaches like to bring in guys that they want to see come in and try to make some plays,” Sharpe said. “I understand that’s part about the business, and I’m all cool with that.
“That’s how the game goes, but like I said now, the opportunity that the Vikings presented me with, being able to come in and having a chance to compete for a starting spot and widen my role a little bit, have a larger role as a part of the offense — that was an opportunity that I just couldn’t pass up. I feel like this is the perfect place for me to be.”
Sharpe said he spoke with quarterback Kirk Cousins on Wednesday.
“He reached out to me, and he was excited to get things going,” Sharpe said.
Whenever the Vikings begin their offseason workout program, Sharpe will look to connect with Cousins quickly as the team tries to replace Diggs. It could give Sharpe a means to refresh his career, too.
“The opportunity that’s being presented with Diggs being traded, having kind of a void to fill at the receiver position, I felt like I had the opportunity to come in here and compete for a starting spot,” he said. “That’s all that you can ask for is the opportunity to come in and compete, to prove your worth. I feel like with Coach Kubiak and with him running the offense and the success that he’s had for all these years, I just feel like this is the best spot for me to be.”
Rhodes to Colts
Xavier Rhodes, a three-time Pro Bowl cornerback for the Vikings, has agreed to a one-year deal with the Indianapolis Colts.
Rhodes, 29, was released by the Vikings on March 13 to save $8.1 million of salary cap money. After making first team All-Pro in 2017, he was hampered by injuries in 2018 and had a rough 2019 season with eight penalties and a heated sideline exchange with coach Mike Zimmer during a December game in Seattle.
Nevertheless, he was a late addition to the Pro Bowl.
The Vikings are bringing center Brett Jones back on a one-year deal worth the veteran minimum ($910,000).