Pelissero: Vikings “In Talks” with DT’s Shamar Stephen, Tom Johnson, OL Joe Berger

With QB situation reportedly settled, team turns focus to in-house free agents

The Vikings needed to wait and see how much money was left after they addressed the quarterback position. Now that it’s reportedly settled with the signing of Kirk Cousins, the team has turned its attention to retaining in-house free agents.

According to Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network, the Vikings are in talks with defensive tackles Shamar Stephen and Tom Johnson, as well as offensive lineman Joe Berger.

DT Shamar Stephen

Shamar Stephen had a solid 2017 season. As part of the defensive line rotation he played 38.5% of the snaps, per Football Outsiders. In 15 games, the 27 year-old collected nine tackles and his first career sack. Stephen, who’s known as a better run-stuffer than pass rusher, earned a PFF grade of 73.1. With only one (healthy) experienced starter at the position (Linval Joseph), the Vikings appears intent on re-signing Stephen, who made $1.8 million last season.

OL Joe Berger

Despite mulling retirement, Joe Berger decided to play this season. Berger, a former center, slid over to right guard shortly after rookie Pat Elflein was selected in last year’s draft. The 35 year-old proceeded to start all 16-games, missing only two offensive snaps the entire season. He earned a 75.7 grade from Pro Football Focus, ranking him 23rd among all NFL guards. Berger, who made $2.1 million in 2017, has reportedly received interest from other teams. Of his 84 career starts, 64 have been with the Vikings.

DT Tom Johnson

Pelissero noted that fee agent defensive tackle Tom Johnson has also received interest from other teams. Johnson, who was a starter at 3 technique last season, had a good 2017 season. In 15 starts he registered 17 tackles, three tackles for a loss and two sacks. He earned a solid 78.9 PFF grade. However, he’ll be 34 next season and he made $2.35 million last year. At that price — and at his age — the Vikings might not be willing to commit a considerable amount of money to Johnson.

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Sean Borman

Sean Borman is a writer with Minnesota roots that's still somehow an optimist. He was an intern with the Vikings during college and previously wrote for Rant Sports. You can find Sean on the golf course and on Twitter @SeanBoarMan.

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  1. Outside of Berger who I question if he has a deal with Father Time I sure hope the Vikings go looking at DT early in the draft ~ Johnson nor Stephen excite me at the starting 3 Tech DT ~ Should they sign one or both ~ Sure if they are cheap enough ~ However I would love to see them add a young guy ((( only if a good one is there when they go on the clock ))) early ~

    1. I’ve gone back and forth on wanting to draft a 3-tech, pass rushing DT, Gordon – Maurice Hurst was the one I’d set my eyes on – but am having second thoughts given that the Vikes are trying to re-sign both Stephen and Johnson. I’m guessing that they want to give Stephen and Jaleel Johnson more snaps, the former on running downs and the latter rushing the passer. In essence, Joseph and Stephen would be our two-down run-stuffing starters and Johnson and Johnson would be our third and fourth down pass-rushing specialists. If that is how it works out, by the way, we have GOT to come up with a cool nickname for the Johnson and Johnson duo! This is all predicated on the (a) Stephen and TJ both being resigned, and (b) the coaches having enough confidence in the development of Jaleel Johnson, which is something that the draft should tell us: if a DT is drafted on Day 1 or 2, JJ is in the hot seat, but if a DT is not drafted until Day 3, or not at all, he’ll be expected to step up in 2018.

      1. Let’s hope Richardson signs with the Vikings so they can look to add purely depth pieces in the draft

    2. There’s a few solid options in the draft:

      Vita Vea (Age 23, 6-5, 344 lbs.), projected round: 1
      Da’Ron Payne (Age 20, 6-2, 308 lbs.), projected round: 1
      Taven Bryan (Age 21, 6-5, 293 lbs.), projected round: 1-2
      Maurice Hurst (Age 22, 6-2, 282 lbs.), projected round: 1-3
      Tim Settle (Age 20, 6-3, 328 lbs.), projected round: 1-3
      Rasheem Green (Age 20, 6-5, 280 lbs.), projected round: 2-3
      Trenton Thompson (Age 21, 6-4, 295 lbs.), projected round: 2-4
      Harrison Phillips (Age 23, 6-4, 285 lbs.), projected round: 2-4
      R.J. McIntosh (Age , 6-4, 293 lbs.), projected round: 2-4

    1. I don’t have the facebook comments app, so I can’t reply to your question over at 1500 about character concerns regarding Richardson, but yes, there are similar questions about both him and Muhammad Wilkerson when they were on the Jets, with conflicts with coaches, questionable effort and a general lack of maturity. I wouldn’t rule him out completely – especially if Stephen and/or TJ walk – because a superb coaching staff (Zimmer, Edwards and DL Coach Patterson) AND a solid locker room are probably exactly what both he and Wilkerson need.

  2. With Easton getting a second-round tender offer of over $2.9 million, I have to think that the chronically underpaid Berger (18th ranked guard by PFF in 2017, 44th best paid, per Spotrac) will be demanding the first serious, starting-level payday of his professional career, something in the four to five million dollars range, at least. Pay him, Rick, before some other team grabs him in the hope that he can help their young QB improve the way John Sullivan helped Jared Goff in 2017.

    Johnson was paid like a guy who would be getting maybe 40% to 50% of the DT snaps but he ended up actually playing 67.5% of all of the team’s defensive snaps. He had wanted $4 million from the team last year, but was refused, so how about this: He gets a base salary a bit higher than last year’s $2.35 million but with bonuses based on playing time/snaps that would bring him up to the $4 million that he probably would have gotten starting for some other team, and might still get in free agency.

    I have to hand it to the coaches, and the player, of course, for the development of Shamar Stephen, a guy who in his previous two-plus seasons had never been graded above the mid-40’s, if that, by PFF, but has developed into a starting-level rotational 3-technique defensive tackle/1-technique nose tackle. One, by the way, who has apparently been in contact with other teams, from what I’ve read elsewhere.

    If Trader Rick tries playing Scrooge, he could risk these very useful cogs in the Vikings machine, so hopefully he won’t cut off the team’s nose to spite it’s face.

      1. Hmm. Good to know. Makes sense, given how much playing time he’s always gotten, even as a rookie, and that the team stuck by him when he missed the majority of 2015.