Hercules Mata’afa was unable to break into a shallow defensive tackle rotation, and the Vikings decided to release the third-year defensive tackle on Tuesday.
Update: The Vikings re-signed Mata’afa to the practice squad after he went unclaimed on waivers this week.
Mata’afa was initially waived to make room for third-year defensive end Jordan Brailford, who was signed off Washington’s practice squad. Brailford is the fifth defensive end on the Vikings active roster, joining Yannick Ngakoue, Ifeadi Odenigbo, Jalyn Holmes and D.J. Wonnum.
Mata’afa was a hyper-productive college player at Washington State, being named PAC-12 Defensive Player of the Year after leading the conference with 21.5 tackles for losses in 2017. The 2018 undrafted signing appeared in nine games after tearing his ACL before his rookie season. Mata’afa played 18 defensive snaps in three games this season.
Brailford, 25, was a 2019 seventh-round pick by the Washington Football Team out of Oklahoma St., where he was a two-year starter and first-team All-Big 12 selection as a redshirt junior. He spent his rookie season on injured reserve, and has yet to appear in an NFL game.
The Vikings also re-signed defensive end Eddie Yarbrough to the practice squad. Yarbrough was waived last weekend due to safety George Iloka’s promotion.
Kicker Chase McLaughlin, the Vikings’ COVID-era emergency option to Dan Bailey, was “protected” for the sixth straight week. Teams can protect up to four practice squad players every week from being signed to other rosters.