Vikings Make First Signing, Add New Tight End

Baltimore Ravens tight end Josh Oliver (84) spikes the ball after a touchdown score as tight end Mark Andrews (89) looks on and Jacksonville Jaguars safety Andre Cisco (5) is slow to get up after an attempted stop during the fourth quarter of a regular season NFL football matchup Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022 at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville. The Jaguars edged the Ravens 28-27. [Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union] Jki 112722 Nfl Ravens Jags 51

The Minnesota Vikings enter free agency with a cap deficit and agree to sign a new guy. That is possible because the new deal won’t be official until March 15 after the new league year started. Despite releasing Adam Thielen and Eric Kendricks, two longtime faces of the Vikings organization, the front office still needs to make some more moves until then.

Those moves can involve restructuring contracts, Brian O’Neill comes to mind, and releasing some more players like Za’Darius Smith and Dalvin Cook. However, the first off-season signing is an unexpected one, as a tight end was not one of the Vikings’ needs.

Vikings Make First Signing, Add New Tight End

The first signing of the off-season of the purple team is the tight end, Josh Oliver.

Vikings Make First Signing -- Add New Tight End
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Mike Garafolo from NFL Network tweeted on Monday: “The #Vikings have agreed to terms with TE Josh Oliver on a three-year, $21 million deal, source says. He gets $10.75 million guaranteed and has incentives that can take the deal up to $24 million.”

Oliver came into the league in the 2019 draft, the same draft as Irv Smith Jr., and was selected in the third round by the Jacksonville Jaguars. The California native was shipped to Baltimore in 2021 for a conditional 7th-round pick after only playing four games in the first two seasons of his career because of injuries.

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In Baltimore, Oliver appeared in 31 games throughout the last two seasons and caught 23 passes for 215 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He’s now getting a huge contract considering his production and Vikings fans are curious why.

Garafolo added in his Tweet: “One of the best blocking tight ends in the league.”

Oliver ranked second according to Profootballfocus in the 2022 season among tight ends in terms of run blocking with his 74.0 grade. In pass protection, his 71.9 grade ranked him in the top 20.

He now joins a tight end room of T.J. Hockenson, Johnny Mundt, and Nick Muse. Former second-round pick Smith Jr. is expected to move on in free agency, especially after the Oliver acquisition.

Hockenson Chatter
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

The signing is still an interesting one considering the Vikings run a pass-heavy system. Kevin O’Connell came in with the expectations to run a modern-day offense with a lot of three-wideout sets. One year later, the Vikings signed, on the surface, a blocking tight end for big money, a move that looks more like a Mike Zimmer signing. The Vikings struggled in the running game in 2022 and might view the signing as an opportunity to get better in that area.

In his senior season at San Jose State, the tight end recorded 56 catches for 709 yards and four touchdowns. The Vikings might see some upside for him in the passing game. Oliver is a big-bodied player with his 6’5″, 249-pound frame. In addition to his huge body, he ran a 4.63 40-yard dash.

One thing the move could mean is that the purple team doesn’t intend to invest big money into a replacement for Adam Thielen and instead wants to run more plays with two tight ends and let K.J. Osborn fill the void on the outside.

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