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The Shamar Stephen Era Formally Ends in Minnesota

A long-time Minnesota Viking, Shamar Stephen, was released by the franchise in mid-March. He was scheduled to usurp around $5 million in contract money for 2021, but the Vikings targeted high-priced assets like Kyle Rudolph, Riley Reiff, and Dan Bailey for waivers (due to a condensed budget). Stephen could not escape general manager Rick Spielman’s cap finagling.

Stephen twisted in the open free agency market for about three weeks. On Tuesday, he was added as a depth piece for the Denver Broncos.

Stephen will reunite with Broncos general manager George Paton, a lieutenant to Vikings boss Rick Spielman for about 15 years. Denver also swiped RB3 Mike Boone away in March, and he figures to serve as the Broncos RB2 for 2021.

The 30-year-old Connecticut alumnus, Stephen, will fit in somewhere among a lineup of Denver’s DT personnel that includes Deshawn Williams, McTelvin Agim, and Mike Purcell. The Broncos generally play a 3-4 defensive scheme, so Stephen’s Colorado adventure will be a change of pace. Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer famously endorses a 4-3 system.

The Vikings reached the NFC Championship in 2017 but were flogged by the Philadelphia Eagles. That was Stephen’s best season as a pro. He tallied a 68.6 Pro Football Focus grade with a particularly impressive 70.7 run defense score. On the whole, Stephen has always been a better run-stopper than quarterback killer.

He played various roles with Minnesota, vacillating between nose tackle and three-technique assignments. In 2020, nose tackle Michael Pierce opted out of the entire season due to coronavirus precautions. Stephen was a serviceable body for the duration of the gig. Outside of the pandemic season, he is normally utilized as a run-stopping 3DT — a role he will likely fill in Denver albeit in a reservist capacity.

Minnesota’s coaching staff was always complimentary of Stephen’s skill set, often when fans were not. When faced with the prospect of playing nose tackle for the 2020 season, co-defensive coordinator Adam Zimmer stated that Stephen was “as good a nose [tackle] as there is.” That fodder was a bit overzealous, but a coach’s job is to inspire confidence.

All told, Stephen played 83 games for the Vikings — more than Daunte Culpepper, Anthony Harris, Lance Johnston, Chris Hovan, Wade Wilson, Keith Millard, and Al Noga.

At the time of his release by the Vikings on March 16th, he was the fifth-longest-tenured Viking on the roster behind Harrison Smith (130 games played), Adam Thielen (105), Anthony Barr (87), and Eric Kendricks (85). The “fifth most active games” as a Viking title now lies with Danielle Hunter (78).

The Stephen-to-Denver news leaves Eric Wilson as the last unsigned starting Vikings name leftover from 2020. The rumor mill has been strangely quiet for the 26-year-old linebacker.

Dustin Baker

Writer. Host of Bleav in Vikings Podcast w/B-Mac & Baker.

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cka2nd
cka2nd
11 days ago

Williams graded out very well with PFF last year, at 76.6, but those 14 games played were his first in the NFL since 2016! Purcell is another one with a significant gap in his resume, with 25 game splayed between 2014 and 2016, and 21 games the last two years, but none in the two years in between. And at least per PFF, his 2019 was much better than his 2020, in which he missed 10 games. Agim was a 3rd round rookie, and apparently played like one, while missing six games himself. Stephen will probably be stepping into the shoes filled by veterans Sylvester Williams and Jurrell Casey for 11 games between them last season, except he should be a veteran presence on the field and in the film room for the entire season.

This should be a good match for both the Broncos and Stephen.

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