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Minnesota Vikings bring back DT Sheldon Richardson

The Minnesota Vikings continue to prioritize their pass rush during mandatory minicamp.

One day after the team and defensive end Danielle Hunter agreed to a reworked contract for 2021, the Vikings brought back defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson on a one-year, $3.6 million deal with incentives that could elevate the value to $4.35 million, a source confirmed to ESPN.

Richardson, who played with the Vikings during the 2018 campaign, said he was approached by Minnesota several weeks ago with an offer and waited to sign until Tuesday after not working out a deal to return to Cleveland Browns, where he played 2019-20.

“You know, I started something there. Honestly, just couldn’t come to an agreement with what I wanted from Cleveland,” Richardson said. “And me being cool with the organization here and knowing everything with what Zim [coach Mike Zimmer] and Coach Dre [defensive line coach Andre Patterson] bring to the table for me … they put me in position to make plays earlier in my career. It was a perfect fit.”

The Browns released Richardson in April in a move that created $11 million in salary-cap space. He started 31 matches in Cleveland and registered 4.5 sacks during the 2020 season.

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This is the second time Richardson has signed a one-year contract with Minnesota.

In 2018, the 2013 first-round pick inked an $8 million deal with the Vikings and proceeded to notch 47 pressures and five sacks that season. That performance helped him earn a three-year, $36 million contract with the Browns as a free agent in 2019.

But this time around, Richardson doesn’t view his contract as a prove-it deal to earn another big payday.

“I’m proven,” Richardson said. “I’ve proven my talent last year, years ago and pretty much every year I’ve played in the league. The way the business works, they hold you five days before the draft and there’s no more money in free agency. You’ve got to take what they hand out.”

After concluding with a franchise-low 23 sacks in 2020, shoring up several areas along the defensive line has been a priority for Minnesota this offseason. The Vikings signed defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson to a two-year, $21 million contract in March.

Although Tomlinson is set to occupy the three-technique spot opposite nose tackle Michael Pierce, Richardson’s athleticism and physical tools will help Minnesota upgrade its interior pass rush.

“I get in where I fit in, simple as that,” Richardson said. “This will be the first year where I’ve not started, so I’m just getting in where I fit in.”

Richardson, 30, played primarily as a three-technique in Cleveland but has played several positions throughout his eight-year career, starting out as a defensive end with the New York Jets before being moved to outside linebacker.

Playing other positions on the D-line is something Richardson said he’s willing to do if needed. “It’s as simple as that. I don’t mind it,” he said.

“I’ve played outside linebacker before in this league, so I really don’t mind it at all. And I was 330 when I did that. I’m 286 right now and feeling good. Like I said, just trying to get back in football shape and let the chips fall where they [may].”

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