MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Vikings will keep their offensive line intact for the third straight year by bringing left guard Charlie Johnson back to the group.
Johnson and the Vikings agreed to terms Saturday on a two-year contract worth as much as $5 million, according to two people with direct knowledge of the deal who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team has not yet announced the deal.
Johnson has played the last three seasons with the Vikings, starting all but one game. That absence, last Nov. 7 against Washington, was because of an elbow injury. Drafted in the sixth round out of Oklahoma State in 2006 by Indianapolis, Johnson has started 107 of 131 games in his career, including the playoffs.
First signed by the Vikings during training camp in 2011 after they released long-time left tackle Bryant McKinnie because he was overweight, Johnson moved to left guard in 2012 to accommodate first-round draft pick Matt Kalil. With center John Sullivan, right guard Brandon Fusco and right tackle Phil Loadholt filling the other spots, the front five has missed a total of only three games over the last two years.
With fullback Jerome Felton and the tight ends and wide receivers also playing important parts, the line paved the way for Adrian Peterson’s 2,097 yards rushing in 2012. The run blocking wasn’t nearly as effective in 2013, but the Vikings are counting on the continuity and experience along the line and the addition of offensive coordinator Norv Turner to return push Peterson closer to the performer he was two seasons ago.
Of the 15 players the Vikings had on their 2013 roster who were eligible for unrestricted free agency this month, six of them have re-signed. Backup offensive lineman Joe Berger, quarterback Matt Cassel, backup nose tackle Fred Evans, defensive end Everson Griffen and wide receiver Jerome Simpson are the others.
The Vikings have also signed away from other teams cornerback Derek Cox, nose tackle Linval Joseph, cornerback Captain Munnerlyn.
The main areas still in need of an upgrade or replacement, whether through free agency or in the draft, are a backup running back to Peterson, a weak-side linebacker and another cornerback. Cassel, of course, is not considered the long-term plan at quarterback, so the Vikings will likely use one of their early-round picks on that position.
“Right now we feel we’ve got a good start, but by no means is this what our 53-man roster is going to look like,” general manager Rick Spielman said Friday. “We’ve still got a long way to go and we’ll still continue to add, not only in the draft but as guys get cut too. We’re always monitoring that day to day.”
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