Joe Berger’s battle to start at center for the Minnesota Vikings concluded weeks ago with the release of John Sullivan, but ended on a high note today with an unexpected contract extension. According to a press release from the team, Berger has been signed to a one-year contract extension with the Vikings.
The 12-year veteran has 54 starts in 115 career games and 34 starts in 77 games in Minnesota. He started all 16 games for the Vikings at center last year and beat out John Sullivan to remain there in 2016. Berger’s extension keeps him in purple and gold through 2017, as the veteran center was set to become a free agent following the season.
In an interview with Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press, Berger reflected on his battle with Sullivan, an eight-year veteran who’d started 93 games for the Vikings. “It’s bittersweet, having to say goodbye (to Sullivan),” he said. “Obviously, we spent a lot of time together in the last six years.”
Berger arrived in Minnesota in 2011, just one day after that year’s season opener. He’d spent training camp and preseason with the Miami Dolphins after starting 20 games for the team from 2009 to 2011. While in Miami, Berger played under Tony Sparano, who now serves as the Vikings’ offensive line coach. Sparano’s history with Berger, coupled with Sullivan’s age and questionable health, likely led Minnesota to commit so much to Berger.
By cutting Sullivan, general manager Rick Spielman’s thinned out depth in the middle of the offensive line. Berger will be 35 next season and his backup, Nick Easton, was an undrafted free agent who’s yet to play in a regular season game for the Vikings. He was acquired in a trade with the San Francisco 49ers during the team’s bye week last season. Easton was ruled out of Sunday’s Week 1 game with an ankle injury.