Brace Hemmelgarn / USA TODAY Sports
Two months after hitting free agency, Sheldon Richardson appears to have found a new home for the 2021 NFL season. It’s also an old one. According to the Star Tribune’s Andrew Krammer, the former Pro Bowl defensive tackle is nearing a deal with the Vikings three years after first playing for the team. Last seen with the Browns in 2020, Richardson is set to return to Minnesota as depth behind projected starters Dalvin Tomlinson and Michael Pierce, beefing up Mike Zimmer’s shuffled defense.
Released by Cleveland in April after the Browns’ additions of defensive linemen Jadeveon Clowney and Malik Jackson, the 30-year-old Richardson originally joined the Vikings in 2018. He started all 16 games for Minnesota that season, logging 49 tackles and 4.5 sacks en route to a three-year, $36 million deal with the Browns the following free agency. In fact, Richardson has been a full-time starter since joining the NFL as a first-round pick of the Jets in 2013, starting fewer than 14 games just once in his eight seasons.
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The Vikings figure to keep Pierce and Tomlinson atop the depth chart after paying big bucks for the big men in successive years; the former signed a three-year, $27 million deal after coming over from the Ravens in 2020, while Tomlinson inked a two-year, $22 million contract this March after four years with the Giants. Richardson, who’s recorded at least four sacks in four different seasons, adds more of a pass-rushing piece to the defensive tackle rotation. He’s likely to replace former reserve Shamar Stephen as the No. 3 DT.
Richardson spent the first four seasons of his NFL career in New York, where he won Defensive Rookie of the Year and logged a career-high eight sacks in 2014. Amid legal troubles in 2016, the veteran was traded to the Seahawks and converted from a 3-4 defensive end to 4-3 tackle. He spent just one season in Seattle before his stops in Minnesota and Cleveland.