The Vikings wasted no time in their quest to fill the void created by the loss of nose tackle Michael Pierce.
On Monday, Aug. 3, the Vikings traded a conditional seventh-round draft pick to the Las Vegas Raiders for Hall, a 6-foot, 305-pound player in his third year in the NFL. Hall started 12 of the 16 games he played last season for the Raiders.
Pierce signed a three-year, $27 million contract as a free agent in March to replace Linval Joseph, a two-time Pro Bowl selection who was released in a salary-related move. However, due to the pandemic, Pierce opted out of the season last week due to his respiratory issues.
The Vikings, who needed Monday to get down to the NFL limit of 80 players for training camp, made a number of other moves. Linebacker Anthony Barr and defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo were activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list after having been placed on it last week. Wide receiver Davion Davis and cornerback Kemon Hall were waived.
Linebacker Ben Gedeon was played on the physically unable to perform list, although he will continue to count against the active roster. And wide receiver Quartney Davis passed his physical and was taken off the active/non-football injury list.
Hall, a second-round pick from Sam Houston State, was in jeopardy of being waived before the trade. ESPN reported that the seventh-round pick is conditional on Hall being on the 53-man roster for six games in 2020.
Hall is expected to compete for playing time with holdover nose tackles Jaleel Johnson and Armon Watts. Three-technique defensive tackle Shamar Stephen also has the ability to slide over to nose tackle. And Hall also can play the three-technique.
Watts came on strong in the second half of last season as a rookie.
“He’s a big strong, athletic guy, so we’re looking for another big jump out of him this year,” Vikings coach MIke Zimmer said before the trade for Hall was announced. “We’ve got guys in there (at nose tackle). We’ll be all right.”
Zimmer said he was with Pierce “100%” when he informed team officials last Tuesday about his decision to opt out. Pierce has asthma and said he has had pneumonia in the past three years.
“I know that it was difficult for Michael when I talked to him, and understanding that he was put in the high-risk category,” said general manager Rick Spielman. “But I also understand that our organization put the health and safety of our players first. … I’ve told him, ‘We respect your decision.’“
With Pierce on the reserve/opt-out list and five players remaining on the reserve/COVID-19 list, the Vikings have 80 players on the active roster. Still on the COVID-19 list are wide receiver Justin Jefferson, tackle Oli Udoh, linebacker Cameron Smith, safety Brian Cole II and tackle Tyler Higby.
General manager Rick Spielman said Monday the Vikings are continuing to negotiate with Dalvin Cook and his agent, Zac Hiller. The 24-year-old running back is on the books to make $1.331 million in 2020, the final year of his four-year rookie deal.
“I know how important Dalvin Cook is, and I know we’ve been working closely with his agent, and we’ll continue to work to try to see if there’s a deal that we feel is not only fair to Dalvin, but fair to us,” Spielman said.
A source told ESPN in June that Cook was considering holding out from training camp if he did not get a “reasonable” contract offer. However, a Cook holdout would have put him jeopardy, under the new collective bargaining agreement, of becoming a restricted free agent rather than an unrestricted free agent next March. He reported to camp last Tuesday.
If Cook is not signed to an extension, the Vikings could place the franchise tag on him in March. With the NFL salary cap likely to go down in 2021 due to revenue lost during the coronavirus pandemic, analyst Jason Fitzgerald said the tag for running backs could be a bit more than $9 million, down about $2 million from projections made before the pandemic.
Spielman didn’t want to speculate on how much work Cook might want to do in camp without a signed extension.
“I can’t predict the future, so i just know where we’re at now, and we’re working extremely hard with him and his agent on trying to come to a common place where we can get him locked up,” he said.