Two former Vikings were signed in free agency on Wednesday and will look to prove themselves in new situations. Former undrafted running back Mike Boone inked a two-year deal with the Broncos and will look to earn playing time after being stuck in a crowded backfield during his time in Minnesota. Talented defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo quickly secured a one-year deal with the Giants after saying goodbye to the Vikings.
Both players were restricted free agents this offseason who the Vikings declined to tender, resulting in them becoming UFAs. Here's a quick breakdown of their new deals and surroundings.
Boone follows Paton to Denver
New Broncos GM George Paton spent the past 14 years as Rick Spielman's right-hand man in Minnesota. So it's not entirely surprising that he made the move to sign Boone, who showed a lot of potential with the Vikings but was buried on a loaded running back depth chart. It's a two-year deal for Boone with $2.6 million guaranteed that could be worth up to $4.5 million with incentives.
An undrafted free agent out of Cincinnati in 2018, Boone was a nice find by the Vikings. He shined in training camp and preseason games, but was stuck behind Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray as a rookie and then Cook and Alexander Mattison the past two seasons. Boone got some expanded playing time in December 2019, with up and down results. He had a two-touchdown game against the Chargers, struggled in his first career start against the Packers, but bounced back with 160 yards from scrimmage in the regular season finale against the Bears.
Boone finishes his three-year Vikings career with 407 total yards and four touchdowns on 5.3 yards per carry. He was also a solid contributor on special teams coverage units, even winning NFC Special Teams Player of the Week last season after forcing a fumble with a big hit on a Texans punt returner.
In Denver, Boone may still end up being the No. 3 running back and playing on special teams. But there's a chance he could earn a bigger role. Melvin Gordon led the Broncos with 1,100 yards from scrimmage and ten touchdowns last season and figures to remain the starter. However, the Broncos used the lowest possible tender on RFA Phillip Lindsay, meaning a team could snatch him up without giving up draft compensation. Boone could end up competing for the No. 2 gig if Lindsay heads elsewhere.
Odenigbo winds up in New York
The Vikings signed a former Giants defensive lineman earlier this week in Dalvin Tomlinson. So naturally, the Giants had to sign a former Vikings defensive lineman in return. In all seriousness, there's not much of a relationship between the two moves. This could be a good situation for Odenigbo, who I was surprised to see the Vikings decline to tender recently. I thought he would've been helpful to keep at a price of just $2.1 million.
Instead, Odenigbo gets $2.5 million on a one-year deal with the Giants. That's the exact price the Vikings paid for Stephen Weatherly earlier this month. They essentially chose Weatherly over Odenigbo, which doesn't make a ton of sense to me. Odenigbo was the more productive player when both were rotational pass rushers for the Vikings in 2019, and he showed more as a starter last year than Weatherly did in his disappointing injury-shortened season with the Panthers. Plus, why not just pay both?
Maybe this indicates the Vikings believe in D.J. Wonnum taking a step forward in his second season. But they still need to add an edge rusher or two his offseason via free agency or the draft, as Weatherly and Wonnum is an uninspiring duo across from Danielle Hunter.
Odenigbo was a seventh-round pick by the Vikings back in 2017. He was cut four times by three different teams in his first two seasons but broke out with seven sacks and a fumble return touchdown in 2019. He was utilized both on the edge and as an interior pass rusher on third downs, finishing the season with a 74.4 PFF grade on nearly 400 snaps.
This past season was a struggle for Odenigbo, as he was basically the only NFL-caliber defensive lineman the Vikings had. That allowed opponents to focus a lot of attention on him; he ended up seeing the fifth-most double teams of any edge rusher in the league in 2020. Odenigbo's 42 pressures led the team by a healthy margin, but he had just 3.5 sacks.
He could be in line for a bounce-back year with the Giants. Behind Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence, the team doesn't have any sure things up front. Tomlinson is in Minnesota, Kyler Fackrell is a free agent, and young edge rushers like Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines are coming off of injuries. They'll likely add more to that group, but Odenigbo should be able to earn playing time for Big Blue.
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