Willing to explore alternative — and in this case, international — avenues to improve their offensive line, the Vikings on Thursday signed 27-year-old offensive tackle Babatunde Aiyegbusi, a native of Poland whose professional football career had been limited to obscure leagues overseas.
The newest Vikings lineman didn't play college football, has an inch and eight pounds on right tackle Phil Loadholt — a massive man in his own right — and needed to secure a visa to travel from Poland to try out for NFL teams.
The Vikings on Monday watched Aiyegbusi work out at the University of Texas-San Antonio, where he was given a special invitation to perform in front of NFL scouts at the school's pro day. Intrigued by what they saw, the Vikings invited him to Winter Park for a private workout Wednesday. A day later, he signed a contract with the team.
"It's just surprising to me. I'm just so grateful of the opportunity the Vikings gave me. I'm aware that this is the real deal, that I have to prove myself," Aiyegbusi told ESPN. "They told me [the NFL] would never happen, but it did. I'm very happy."
While the Vikings offensive line struggled last season and the team has made no other moves in free agency to strengthen that area, it will not be easy for the 6-9, 351-pound lineman to make the 53-man roster this summer. But if he does, Aiyegbusi, who hails from the town of Olesnica, would become the fifth Polish-born player in NFL history.
He would join, in order, kicker Rich Szaro, kicker Chester Marcol, defensive tackle Jason Maniecki, and kicker Sebastian Janikowski. Janikowski, of the Oakland Raiders, is the only one active.
Aiyegbusi, who has a Nigerian father and was a high-level basketball player in Poland before converting to football, spent 2014 protecting quarterbacks in the German Football League. He played in the Polish American Football League in 2013, winning a league title with the Wroclaw Giants.
While he dwarfed defenders in those leagues — at least in the grainy highlight videos posted on YouTube — the ones in the NFL will be harder to push around.
"There are a lot of things I've still got to work on," he admitted in the ESPN interview.
In addition to signing Aiyegbusi on Thursday, the Vikings also finalized the terms of a one-year, $2.5 million contract with free agent cornerback Terence Newman, with $750,000 guaranteed, according to a league source. They also waived linebacker Justin Anderson and guard Jordan McCray.
• The 49ers waived offensive lineman Jonathan Martin. The Niners acquired Martin last March in a deal with Miami. Martin had left the Dolphins in October 2013 after accusing teammate Richie Incognito of bullying. An NFL investigation determined Incognito and two other Dolphins offensive linemen engaged in persistent harassment of Martin. He started seven games at right tackle for San Francisco last season but allowed 7½ sacks, according to STATS.
• Defensive end Randy Gregory said he tested positive for marijuana at the NFL scouting combine last month and that he failed two drug tests at Nebraska last year. Gregory went into February's scouting combine projected to be among the top 10 picks in the draft. He declared for the draft after his junior season at Nebraska, where he recorded had 17½ sacks in two seasons.
• The extra point appears headed for some changes, perhaps significant ones, for the 2015 season. Those changes likely will come in May when the owners have their next major meetings.
"There's a clear movement to wanting to change and change it this year," said Rich McKay, co-chairman of the competition committee and president of the Falcons. McKay's committee will "develop alternatives and be ready for a potential vote" in San Francisco.
The Associated Press contributed to this roundup.