Vikings Sign ‘Elite Special Teamer’

Dec 12, 2022; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Arizona Cardinals linebacker Tanner Vallejo (51) against the New England Patriots at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings keep making moves as general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah is trying to build the best possible football team. N’Keal Harry was signed last week and immediately made an outstanding grab in the preseason. The team also switched out a couple of offensive linemen, changing the depth pieces. In addition to working out linebacker Clarence Hicks, they signed veteran Tanner Vallejo.

Vikings Sign ‘Elite Special Teamer’

elite Special
Nov 21, 2022; Mexico City, MEXICO; San Francisco 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey (23) is hit by Arizona Cardinals linebacker Tanner Vallejo (51) during the first half at Estadio Azteca. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Vallejo is 28 years old and is entering his seventh season in the NFL. Tom Pelissero tweeted on Sunday: “The Vikings are signing veteran LB Tanner Vallejo, per source. An elite special teamer.”

Linebackers William Kwenkeu and Brian Asamoah have missed some practice time, so signing someone is the usual procedure to have enough bodies available for practice. However, Vallejo is not just a random undrafted rookie, he has serious experience in the NFL.

Coming out of Boise State in 2017, he was a sixth-round selection of the Buffalo Bills. In his four seasons in college, Vallejo racked up 275 tackles, 35 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, and 1 interception that he returned for a 63-yard touchdown.

Jan 3, 2021; Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Rams running back Cam Akers (23) carries Arizona Cardinals linebacker Tanner Vallejo (51) during the first half at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Despite his late-round draft stock and injuring his knee in the preseason, the rookie made the roster in 2017 but he was waived right before the 2018 season. With the Bills, he was primarily a special teams ace and he has made a career out of it.

The Cleveland Browns claimed him and he played one season for them. Once again a key special teams player, he was also on the field with the defense on 145 snaps. This time, the Arizona Cardinals claimed him off waivers but he didn’t make the 53-man roster and once again, didn’t enter free agency because Washington claimed him. Curiously, he was waived after spending two months in the nation’s capital and returned to the Cardinals where he played for the remainder of 2019 and the following three seasons.

In his career, Vallejo appeared in 82 games including 8 starts. He recorded 114 tackles for four different teams. The veteran played on 683 defensive snaps and 1,535 with the special teams.

Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb (24) turns the corner on Arizona Cardinals linebacker Tanner Vallejo (51) during the third quarter at State Farm Stadium on December 15, 2019. Browns Vs Cardinals

He is now trying to make the team in Minnesota and coaching staffs love players that are valuable on special teams. The linebacker group has now nine players:

  • Jordan Hicks
  • Brian Asamoah
  • Ivan Pace
  • Troy Dye
  • Troy Reeder
  • William Kwenkeu
  • Abraham Beauplan
  • Wilson Huber
  • Tanner Vallejo

Brian Asamoah and Jordan Hicks are the designated starters in Brian Flores’ defense and undrafted rookie Ivan Pace is making a great case to earn a significant rotational role. Troy Dye and Troy Reeder should be considered the backup linebackers with special teams ability, perhaps the competition for Vallejo.

The Vikings must release a player to stay under the roster limit. It’s quite possible that one of the linebackers will be cut. Also conceivable is that someone is hurt but it hasn’t been disclosed yet and the player must be put on IR.

Vallejo’s first outing in a Vikings jersey could be the second preseason game against the Titans on Saturday at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt