EAGAN, Minn. — Free agency has never started with this much familiarity.
The Vikings announced Wednesday afternoon — at the onset of the new league year — that they have agreed to terms on multiyear contracts with Anthony Barr and Shamar Stephen.
Barr has played all five of his previous seasons with Minnesota after the Vikings drafted him ninth overall out of UCLA in 2014.
Stephen was selected in the same draft — in the seventh round out of UConn — and played his first four seasons in Vikings Purple before signing a one-year deal with Seattle a year ago.
Together, Barr and Stephen have combined to play in 123 games and make 91 starts for a Minnesota defense that has enjoyed a high level of continuity among its coaches and several core players, helping the Vikings vault up the rankings from their time near the bottom of multiple categories in 2013.
Since the arrival of Head Coach Mike Zimmer in 2014, the Vikings have ranked first in the NFL in defensive third-down percentage (34.1), third in opponents’ net yards per game (317.9) and third in opponents’ points per game (19.3).
Barr has started all 71 games he’s played and garnered a Pro Bowl selection in each of the past four seasons.
Selected a season-long team captain for the first time in 2018, Barr totaled 55 tackles, eight tackles for loss, 3.0 sacks and a forced fumble in 13 games. He played the fourth-most snaps (808) among Vikings defenders in helping Minnesota rank fourth in yards allowed per game (309.7) and fourth in offensive points allowed (298) last season.
Zimmer has talked about the ways that opponents try to account for Barr in building out their game plans. He said they often treat him as a fifth rusher throughout a game, whether the linebacker is sent after quarterbacks or not.
Barr has been important in working with middle linebacker Eric Kendricks in Zimmer’s Double-A Gap blitz, and he also has worn the communications device for the defense, relaying calls from the sideline to the huddle.
Off the field, the native of San Pedro, California, has been a fixture in the Twin Cities community through his Raise the Barr Foundation that supports single mothers through childcare assistance and by providing scholarships so they can advance their education.
Stephen has started 20 of 52 games for the Vikings and played an important role in the defensive line rotation in 2017. Minnesota led the NFL in opponents’ third-down percentage (25.1), yards per game (275.9) and points per game (15.9).
He totaled 142 tackles (77 solo), a sack, two tackles for loss and two fumble recoveries during his first four seasons with the Vikings.
In 2018, Stephen started 14 of 15 games for the Seahawks — including a Dec. 10 contest against the Vikings — last season, giving him 67 career games.
The New York native totaled 25 tackles, 2.0 sacks and three quarterback hits during the regular season for Seattle. Stephen also started for the Seahawks in their Wild Card playoff game against the Cowboys.