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Vikings Retain a Couple of Important Special Teamers

By Janik Eckardt

The Vikings agreed to terms with a couple of outside free agents on Monday, the first day of free agency. Tight end Josh Oliver and edge rusher Marcus Davenport joined the purple team for the 2023 season.

Both didn’t have productive seasons in 2022 according to the stat sheets but are much better than those numbers indicate. Oliver is an elite blocker, which will especially help the struggling Vikings running game, and Davenport is a freak athlete with outstanding potential. He just has to stay healthy for a full season.

Vikings Retain a Couple of Important Special Teamers

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The theme on Tuesday was retaining a handful of internal free agents.

On Tuesday evening, the Vikings reportedly agreed to new deals with long snapper Andrew DePaola and kicker Greg Joseph, two crucial parts of the Vikings’ special teams in the last couple of seasons.

Joseph joined the Vikings in the 2021 off-season and has been the team’s kicker ever since. In only his second game with the team, Joseph missed a game-winning field goal attempt from only 37 yards out in a loss to the Cardinals. However, Joseph totally redeemed himself with seven successful game-winning kicks after that, an outstanding number.

Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Joseph hit the game-winning field goal against the Giants on Christmas Eve from 61 yards, the longest kick in franchise history by five yards. He has been absolutely fantastic in those late-game situations.

Meanwhile, the number of extra points he misses is concerning, as he missed 6 of his 46 attempts. Only Cairo Santos and Joey Slye had more trouble with the short kick last season. Special teams coach Matt Daniels certainly hopes for an improvement in that area. Joseph signed a one-year contract, worth $2.5 million.

A big part of a functioning field goal-kicking and punting operation is the long snapper. Andrew DePaola, a 2022 Pro Bowler, and first-team All-Pro will continue to work with Joseph and punter Ryan Wright.

The long snapper had a long career before he joined the Vikings. After stints with the Buccaneers, Bears, and Raiders, he suffered a torn ACL in Week 1 of the 2018 season as the long snapper for the Panthers and didn’t play another game until the Vikings signed him in November 2020. Profootballfocus graded DePaola as the best long snapper in the league: “PFF tracks accuracy on long snaps, and there has been no safer long snapper than DePaola, who had just four slightly off-target snaps all season.”

Peter van den Berg-USA TODAY Sports.

DePaola signed a three-year deal, according to Adam Schefter: “Vikings and All-Pro long snapper Andrew DePaola reached agreement on a three-year, $4.025 million deal that includes $2.265 million guaranteed, the largest guarantee given to a long snapper, per his agent.”

A wonderful deal for an athlete who was out of the league for more than two years. DePaola is 35 years old, so there is a good chance that he will retire a Vikings. The purple team keeps continuity, an important aspect of the kicking operation, that should lead to some improvements. Punter and holder Wright is also expected to be back with the team after signing a three-year contract last year.

The organization will also have continuity on other positions. Center Garrett Bradbury and backup QB Nick Mullens are also retained by the Vikings, just like injury-plagued edge rusher Kenny Willekes.

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

Janik Eckardt

Janik Eckardt is a German sports nerd, who likes numbers and stats. He chose the Vikings to be his favorite team, despite Christian Ponder being the quarterback at the time. Soccer has been his first love. Classic rock is his music genre of choice and he loves sitcoms.

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