EAGAN, Minn. — Stephen Weatherly is returning to the Vikings.
The team announced Monday that the defensive end, who was a seventh-round draft pick by Minnesota in 2016, has signed a contract that will return him to Minnesota. Weatherly was at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center on Monday after passing a physical.
Weatherly signed with the Panthers as a free agent during the 2020 offseason but played in just nine games due to an injury. He recorded 17 tackles with a tackle for loss in 2020 and was released by Carolina earlier this offseason.
The early release by the Panthers enabled the Vikings to reach a deal with him before the start of the new league year on March 17. It also means Weatherly's addition will not count against Minnesota when the NFL determines compensatory picks for 2022.
View the top photos of Vikings DE Stephen Weatherly from the 2019 season.
Weatherly showed his excitement to re-join the Vikings in a post on his Instagram account Thursday morning that included video highlights, clips of him working out and a message.
"I'm really excited to be back in Minnesota where I started my career," Weatherly said. "The fans have been asking for it, so I'm finally able to bring it to them."
He now rejoins a team (and a defense) he knows well. Weatherly played in 49 regular-season games from 2016-19 and made seven starts, recording 84 total tackles with 6.0 sacks and a pair of forced fumbles.
Perhaps his most impactful play came in Week 5 of the 2018 season when he sacked quarterback Carson Wentz on the road in Philadelphia. Weatherly's hit jarred the ball loose, and Linval Joseph promptly gathered it before rumbling for a 64-yard fumble return touchdown.
View photos of Vikings DE Stephen Weatherly who the team recently welcomed back.
The addition of Weatherly provides depth at defensive end for a Vikings unit that struggled to generate pressure on quarterbacks in 2020. Minnesota finished with just 23 total sacks this past season, which was the lowest total in franchise history.
Weatherly has also a strong connection with Andre Patterson, who is Minnesota's Co-Defensive Coordinator and defensive line coach.
The 227th overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft will turn 27 on March 19. He spent the majority of his rookie season on the practice squad before being activated in November of that season. He made his NFL debut in Jacksonville in Week 14.
Weatherly, who played collegiately at Vanderbilt, plays nine musical instruments and has an affinity for Rubik's Cubes and other hobbies such as glass blowing.