The Vikings have re-signed defensive tackle Tom Johnson, who had a career year in 2014, to a three-year contract worth $7 million, including $3 million guaranteed, according to a league source.
While Johnson is not a starter, he was considered a free-agent priority for the Vikings.
In his first season with the Vikings, Johnson, 30, thrived in head coach Mike Zimmer’s scheme as a pass-rushing tackle. Playing mostly in Zimmer’s sub packages, Johnson racked up 6.5 sacks, more than doubling his career total. He had 22 tackles and almost forced a fumble.
Johnson, a journeyman who at one point in his career was cut by an Arena Football League team, was looking for a raise and a multi-year deal. Talks between the Vikings and Johnson’s agent picked up after the NFL scouting combine two weeks ago and the sides were able to find middle ground this weekend during the league’s three-day free-agent negotiating window.
The Vikings have had dialogue with some of their other free agents, including middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley and guard Joe Berger, but Johnson is the only one who they have re-signed. Free agents are able to negotiate with other teams now and can sign with new teams starting Tuesday.
We are still a couple of days away from the official start of NFL free agency, but some of the most sought-after players in this year’s free-agent class are already spoken for.
Wide receiver Randall Cobb is staying with the Packers. Cornerback Bryon Maxwell told ESPN that he’s headed to the Eagles. And Teddy Bridgewater and his fellow NFC North quarterbacks are probably thrilled that defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh is reportedly joining the Dolphins.
The Vikings, meanwhile, weren’t linked to any of those marquee free agents. I did see a report from the Pioneer Press that the Vikings had made a call about Pro Bowl guard Mike Iupati, one of five players we expected the team to target. But for the most part, they seem to have been pretty quiet overall, focusing on lower-level free agents like Adrian Clayborn and Shaun Hill this weekend.
Another player the Vikings have reached out to is Taylor Mays, who played for head coach Mike Zimmer for three years in Cincinnati. And a league source said Mays is interested in coming here.
It’s unclear whether the Vikings see Mays as a potential starter or a reserve. But the safety position next to Harrison Smith, which is unsettled for a second straight offseason, is an obvious priority for the Vikings. Robert Blanton was tabbed as the Week 1 starter in 2014. He had his moments throughout the season but was ultimately replaced by Andrew Sendejo in December.
Mays, listed at 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, was a second-round pick of the 49ers in 2010 before being traded to the Bengals in 2011. He played 50 games for the Bengals, mostly as a backup, but he did carve out a significant role as a sub-package defender under Zimmer. Last season, though, with Zimmer in Minnesota, Mays did not have much of a role on the Cincinnati defense.
In his five NFL seasons, Mays has made 98 tackles, recorded one sack and forced one fumble. The 27-year-old has broken up six passes and is still looking for his first career interception.
This draft is not considered to be a good one for safeties, so Mays is probably not the only safety the Vikings have inquired about. Devin McCourty, Rahim Moore, Mike Adams and Da’Norris Searcy are among the top safety options available.
Of course, considering all the league-wide activity these past couple of days, I wouldn’t be surprised if one of those safeties I just listed agreed to sign somewhere else as I was typing this blog up.