The Book On Biekert

The addition of Greg Biekert not only helps the physical aspect of the linebackers on the field, it also helps bring a real veteran savvy in the middle of Willie Shaw's defense.

The Vikings made a terrific move in picking up veteran middle linebacker Greg Biekert, who was released by the Oakland Raiders in what was primarily a cost-cutting move.

The Vikings out-recruited the Lions by inking him to a three-year, $3.45 million contract that included a $1 million signing bonus. Detroit was apparently offering $1.75 million this year, but the opportunity to be re-united with defensive coordinator Willie Shaw, whom he played for in 1998-99 with the Raiders, helped him decide on the Vikings.

Biekert had refused to take a pay cut from the roughly $2.5 million he was scheduled to make to the approximately $1 million the Raiders wanted to pay him and thus clear the way for one of their first-round picks, Napoleon Harris.

A tremendous leader, Biekert (6-2, 255) was the heart and soul of the Raiders' defense the past several years and was the team's leading tackler last season with 108 tackles, while adding four quarterback sacks, three passes defensed and one fumble recovery.

He is a no-nonsense, rugged, consistent, productive football player who makes everyone around him better. He's a real student of the game and will be a tremendous influence on the younger players around him. He is a stout run defender who understands defensive coordinator Willie Shaw's defense extremely well after playing for him in 1998-99.

The addition of Biekert enables the Vikings to move Henri Crockett to the weak side for now, where rookie Raonall Smith is still recovering from a shoulder problem.

Crockett showed good instincts and flow to the ball in the middle, but he clearly wasn't always comfortable with alignments. From the weak side, he can just let his instincts and ability work for him.

When Smith is ready to go, Crockett could move back to the strong side, where he generally played during his career with the Falcons.

Patrick Chukwurah remains the starter on the strong side for now.

Originally a seventh-round draft choice from Colorado by the Raiders in 1993, this represents the 10th season in the NFL for the 33-year-old Biekert. He has played in 144 games with 123 starts, including starting the past 89 games in which he's played. He led the Raiders in tackles each of the past four seasons.

A respected team leader, he was voted the team's Defensive MVP by his teammates last season. A fan-favorite, he was cheered vigorously in the Raiders' preseason finale against Arizona recently. He responded by making the first two tackles of the game.

A native of the Midwest, Biekert was born in Iowa City, Iowa. He graduated from Longmont High School in Longmont, Colorado. He was a four-year letterman at Colorado and was also voted by his teammates MVP as a senior.

Biekert is an experienced run stopper with exceptional knowledge of the game. He will be a superb mentor to rookie Raonall Smith, who was penciled in as the starter on the weak side. He will also be a wonderful role model for Nick Rogers, who has all the tools to eventually develop into a solid, starting-caliber middle linebacker.

Along with Shaw, Biekert also re-unites with former Raider defensive end Lance Johnstone and former Colorado teammates defensive tackle Darius Holland and free safety Ronnie Bradford.


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