MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO/AP) — Linval Joseph is listed at 6-foot-4 and 323 pounds, just the right size for an NFL nose tackle.
The player Joseph looked up to while learning how to play in the middle of the line in high school and college was Pat Williams, and now his career has come full circle. Joseph has joined the Minnesota Vikings, who haven’t been able to match the moxie and production Williams provided at the position since the big man retired after the 2010 season.
“Pat was a physical guy. He liked to slam guys. I watched him a lot,” said Joseph, who finalized a five-year contract with the Vikings on Wednesday.
Williams was picked for three Pro Bowls in his six seasons with the Vikings. They allowed the fewest yards rushing in the league for three straight years in that span, 2006 through 2008, and the oversized, popular, colorful Williams had much to do with that.
“He wanted to show that he’s an all-time great. He had something to prove from where he started to where he finished,” Joseph said, adding: “He was just loved around here. And I want to be the same way.”
Joseph started 46 of 48 games for the New York Giants while averaging 55 tackles and three sacks over the last three seasons and won a Super Bowl with them, too. The 25-year-old was a second-round draft pick in 2010 out of East Carolina. He grew up in Florida after his family moved from the Virgin Islands.
The Giants made him an offer, but he said “it was nowhere near” what the Vikings gave him. According to ESPN, Joseph’s deal has a maximum value of $31.5 million. Oakland and Atlanta also were interested. But Minnesota was his first choice. Joseph said he sees playing for new Vikings coach Mike Zimmer like his experience with the Giants and Tom Coughlin, another noted hard-nosed NFL head coach.
“I can tell he’s straightforward and he’s defensive-minded and he wants to win,” Joseph said of Zimmer.
The Vikings also finalized one-year contracts on Wednesday with middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley and offensive lineman Joe Berger.
Given the new deal they gave Everson Griffen this week and the extension they handed Brian Robison last year, the Vikings have secured three of the starting front four with contracts valuing more than $100 million combined at maximum worth. Those three will account for close to 15 percent of the $133 million salary cap in 2014.
They might not spending money on the line, either. According to a person with knowledge of the situation, speaking on condition of anonymity because the Vikings have not publicized any visits by free agents yet, former Chicago Bears defensive tackle Henry Melton will be at Winter Park on Thursday to meet with team officials.
Melton made the Pro Bowl with six sacks in 2012, but he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the third game of last season.
The Vikings also signed former linebacker Jasper Brinkley, who spent the 2013 season with the Arizona Cardinals after being drafted by the Vikings in 2009.
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