EAGAN, Minn. — The Vikings officially announced the signing of veteran linebacker Nick Vigil Tuesday, a move that will add versatility and depth to the defense as well as a player with experience as a starter and on special teams.
Vigil toured Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center, scoping out his new home Tuesday. He reconnected with Vikings Senior Defensive Assistant Paul Guenther, for whom he played two seasons in Cincinnati (2016-17) and met with Co-Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers Coach Adam Zimmer and Special Teams Coordinator Ryan Ficken.
Guenther had been Vigil's first defensive coordinator in the NFL after the linebacker was drafted in the third round out of Utah State. Part of the visuals that Guenther used to teach were game films of the Vikings defense led by his former and current boss, Head Coach Mike Zimmer.
Vigil said he was plenty familiar with new teammates Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks from the film study.
"We would watch a lot of Vikings film, just comparing in the offseason and things like that," Vigil said. "So I've seen a little bit of what they do. Obviously they're two really good players who are really talented and have been good for a long time, so just to be able to play with two guys like that, I'm very excited about it."
The Vikings prioritized Vigil early in the free agency process as the team looked to replenish free agency departures for a position group that was downright depleted by injuries in 2020.
"They reached out right when the legal tampering period opened, so we just kind of talked to them all day long, for about eight or nine hours that whole day," Vigil said. "In talking with my agent, we felt like it was a good fit, based off that I had played in this system before and had some familiarity with some of the coaches and they have a good defense. They've got a good culture here and have won a lot of games in the past, so we just felt like it was a really good fit for me and everybody in my family, as well, so we agreed to it and here we are."
Vigil grew up in the small town of Plain City, Utah, mutton busting with his brother, Zach. The brothers eventually worked their way up to riding small bulls. When Zach suffered an injury, their parents pointed the brothers toward football instead of professional bull riding.
"He fell on his head, and they thought he had a broken neck, but he didn't. He was fine," Nick said Tuesday. "But yeah, after that my mom said – he had a couple scares before that – so after that my mom told my dad, 'No more rodeo. They've gotta play football.' "
View photos of LB Nick Vigil signing his contract at TCO Performance Center.
The brothers also enjoyed hunting and fishing, which should be possible for Nick in Minnesota, as well as riding and training horses.
Each brother made it to play for Utah State, where the duo teamed together from 2012-14, and racked up tackles for loss. Zach has the program record with 43.5, and Nick ranks third with 38.5.
"That was pretty special. Not a lot of people get to play with their siblings in college," Nick said. "Me and him are very close and had done everything together growing up. Being able to play side-by-side for three years was a pretty neat deal, and it was especially good for me because he was in the NFL before I was, so he was able to kind of help me through that whole process of how it goes, how to train and how to keep your body healthy, and the things I needed to be doing because he had already been through it for a full year."
Zach played two seasons for Miami and two-plus more for Washington, switching teams in 2016 and playing through 2018. Zach and Nick have remained close throughout the process.
Now prepping for his sixth NFL season and third team, Nick said he expects the Vikings to require multiple types of coverages and versatility.
"You've got to be a smart player where you can think and diagnose very fast, and I think I do a good job of that," he said. "And yeah, the techniques are one of the biggest things in this defense – you've got to be very technique-sound because you do a lot of different stuff. So I think that plays to my strength in that aspect."
View photos of new Vikings LB Nick Vigil who recently joined the team.
Vigil could have an opportunity to earn a starting job that Ben Gedeon and Eric Wilson have held in the base defense in recent years. Gedeon started 22 of 39 games from 2017-19 but was unable to pass a physical in 2020 and was waived in November.
Wilson started 25 of 64 games in four seasons with Minnesota before becoming eligible for free agency. He learned every linebacker position and was the starting weakside linebacker before he had to step in after Barr's injury in Week 2. When Kendricks was lost for the final five games, Wilson slid over to man the middle.
Vigil has started 39 of the 69 games he's played in the NFL, including all 16 with the Bengals in 2019 when he recorded a career-best 111 tackles on defense. Last season, he made two starts for the Chargers and appeared in 15 games. He played 30 percent of their defensive snaps and 47 percent of their snaps on special teams.
"It is hard once you go from a starting role to being more of a backup, but I got a lot of playing time last year, played a lot of different spots for the Chargers and had a good, productive year when I got my chances," Vigil said. "We've got a new, fresh start here, and we'll see what happens."