With some holes being more exposed than others, it was the Minnesota Vikings’ mission to go out and find some free agents this offseason. They also addressed their roster in resigning players to return for the 2016-17 season. The biggest need going into next season will be bolstering the offensive line, and the Vikings made two key signings to address that need. The Vikings have also had some under-the-radar signings as well, making this offseason busier than ones in the past for Minnesota.
Brian Leonhardt, TE
The 6’5”, 255 pound Leonhardt will be entering his third NFL season with his fourth different team. Leonhardt was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota and attended Spring Lake Park high school and Bemidji State University. He has spent time with the Oakland Raiders, Cleveland Browns and the San Francisco 49ers before signing with the Vikings this offseason. Even though there has not been much playing time for the tight-end, the former Beaver hauled in 112 catches for 1,431 yards and 15 touchdowns during his 4-year tenure at Bemidji State. The team already has some reliable players at the position including Kyle Rudolph, Rhett Ellison and MyCole Pruitt. Leonhardt will add more depth to the position, and he also becomes the sixth active Vikings player on the roster who is a Minnesota native.
Alex Boone, T
In what was considered as the ‘most significant free agency signing’ for the Vikings by ESPN’s Ben Goessling, Alex Boone may already be a Viking favorite. When Boone signed his four-year, $26.8 million contract with Minnesota one of the first things the former 49er said was “I’d like to punch Clay Matthews in the face.” As if the Packers-Vikings rivalry was not already intense enough, Boone just lit another flame to that fire. The 6’8”, 300 pound tackle has played in 77 career games and started 59. Boone will bring toughness to a fragile offensive line, which is something the Vikings have been searching for. The big man had played in San Francisco his entire NFL career up to this point, and went to the Super Bowl in 2012.
Andre Smith, T
Smith and Boone both started playing professionally in 2009, but the only difference was Boone went undrafted and Smith was the sixth overall pick in the draft. Smith has also played with one team since 2009 in the Cincinnati Bengals. He was an All-American at the University of Alabama, and has been a very consistent offensive tackle at the NFL level. Playing in 82 games and starting 73 of them, Smith could provide more protection to an offensive line that sometimes would appear flustered. Bringing veterans in like Smith and Boone will make the Vikings offensive line the highest paid heading into next season, but will also solidify any holes that may be left in the offensive line.
The Vikings also resigned cornerback Terrence Newman, defensive end Justin Trattou, running back Matt Asiata, tight-end Rhett Ellison, cornerback Marcus Sherels, safety Andrew Sendejo and wide receiver and MNSU alum Adam Thielen.