MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Vikings ramped up their run blocking on Monday by agreeing to terms with former Baltimore tight end Josh Oliver on a three-year, $21 million contract, according to a person with direct knowledge of the deal.
The person confirmed the agreement to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because free agent contracts can’t be finalized until the new league year begins on Wednesday. The deal includes $10.75 million in guaranteed money and has attainable incentives that would push the total value to $24 million, the person said.
The Vikings ranked 26th in the NFL last season with an average of 4.1 yards per rush and tied for 27th in total rushing yards. Oliver was the highest-ranked tight end in run blocking in 2022 by Pro Football Focus.
Oliver was a third-round draft pick by Jacksonville out of San Jose State in 2019, but he played in only four games in two seasons for the Jaguars. He suffered a severe hamstring injury in his first training camp and, after a brief return, saw his rookie season end with a back injury.
The following year, he broke a bone in his foot in camp and was again placed on season-ending injured reserve. The Jaguars traded him the next spring to the Ravens, for whom he had a limited role in 14 games in 2021.
Oliver flourished as a run blocker last season, playing in all 17 games and 47% of the snaps on offense. He had 14 receptions for 149 yards and two touchdowns.
The move was the first made by Minnesota after the market opened for formal free agent negotiations. The Vikings still needed to clear more than $7 million in salary cap charges when Monday began, even after releasing linebacker Eric Kendricks and wide receiver Adam Thielen last week. Talks can take place over the first two days and agreements in principle can be reached, but contracts cannot be signed until Wednesday.
The deal with Oliver all but assures the Vikings will not re-sign tight end Irv Smith Jr., whose injury-limited four years with Minnesota ended with him in a complementary role to Pro Bowl acquisition T.J. Hockenson. Hockenson was sixth overall in the Pro Football Focus tight end rankings for 2022, and Oliver was eighth. The Vikings also have Johnny Mundt under contract at tight end. He primarily is a run blocker as well.