The Vikings defensive line continued to be reshaped as free agent defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson reached a deal to return to Minnesota.
Richardson, 30, was released by the Browns in April to save salary cap space after Cleveland had signed defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. After playing for the Vikings on a one-year deal in 2018, Richardson played two seasons for the Browns on a three-year, $37 million contract before he was released.
Richardson’s rrival gives the Vikings’ pass rush a much-needed boost. Its top threat, defensive end Danielle Hunter, returns to the team at this week’s minicamp after agreeing to a restructured contract.
Richardson has been a starter at all four stops of his NFL career – the Jets, Seahawks, Vikings, and Browns. But he joins a logjam among the Vikings’ defensive tackles, who include nose tackle Michael Pierce and recent free-agent signing Dalvin Tomlinson, the ex-Giants defensive tackle who inked a two-year, $21 million deal in March.
But the Vikings will at least benefit from Richardson’s ability to pressure quarterbacks. Minnesota hasn’t had an interior pass rusher like Richardson since he left. His 47 quarterback pressures in 2018 – tracked by Pro Football Focus – were well over the 27 pressures the Vikings got from all defensive tackles last season. He was also a strong run defender with 18 stops in 16 starts for Minnesota.
The Vikings released defensive tackle Shamar Stephen in March after signing Tomlinson. The team also drafted defensive tackle Jaylen Twyman in the sixth round to join fellow reserves Armon Watts and James Lynch.
Richardson appeared in all 34 games for Cleveland in the past two seasons, which included two playoff games. He had 7.5 sacks and led the Browns’ defensive line in run stops each season, according to PFF.