Anthony Barr’s near exit from the Vikings happened because of money, which was partly rooted in the New York Jets’ reported belief Barr could fit back into the 3-4 outside linebacker role he played five years ago at UCLA.

It would’ve meant more pass rushes, more sacks and more cash. So when asked about Barr’s role in Minnesota, Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer defended the system and Barr, a four-time Pro Bowler who has just 13.5 career sacks.

“I know a lot of laymen don’t understand this,” Zimmer said, “but Anthony is a guy that every team we play game-plans for. There’s not one team — maybe one team last year didn’t, and we got 10 sacks. So, if they all game-plan for him, a lot of that is sacrificing himself to be able to let other guys be free on rushes and blitzes and things like that. That’s why he’s an unselfish guy.”

Barr said he’s “not sure” if his role will change with the Vikings in Year 6. It’ll be an important role, regardless. The former first-round pick is fitted with the in-helmet radio, making him the defense’s conduit to coaches during play. He’s also fourth on the team in tackles for losses (30) since entering the league. Leading on and off the field will be required as Barr is now the third-highest-paid Vikings defender at $13.5 million per season.

“I think I’ve been able to do that to a certain extent since I’ve been here,” Barr said. “I think that’s how you measure a leader, is how can you make everybody else better? And can you get everybody on the same page, doing the same thing? To do that with 100 guys on defense for 70 plays a game is not easy, but it’s a role I’ve accepted, a role I’m looking forward to continuing.”

O-line options remain, at a price

The Vikings still have needs to fill along the offensive line, at kicker and wide receiver, among other positions. The team will fish free agency’s secondary waves for value while continuing negotiations with its own free agents, which include guard Nick Easton and returner Marcus Sherels.

Free-agent offensive linemen are not coming cheap. Thirteen already have signed for at least $5 million per season, according to OverTheCap.com. Linemen still available who could intrigue the Vikings include former Titans guard Quinton Spain, ex-Falcons tackle Ryan Schraeder and former Bills tackle Jordan Mills.

“This is just the start of free agency,” Vikings GM Rick Spielman said.

Quick hits

• The Vikings hired Amanda DeKanick as an assistant athletic trainer, making the Concordia (St. Paul) graduate the NFL’s sixth full-time female athletic trainer.

• Former Vikings guard Mike Remmers wrapped up his free-agent visit with the Giants on Friday without a contract.

• Former Gophers cornerback Briean Boddy-Calhoun signed with the Texans.