A couple years ago, the Vikings decided that spending money on solid signing bonuses for undrafted rookies was a good way to help ensure solid depth at the lower levels of the roster. That commitment to free-agent rookies paid off again this year, as former Maryland defensive tackle Conrad Bolston chose the Vikings from among a dozen offers he received, according to a published report in the Gazette of Gaithersburg, Md.
"It's a great deal by free-agent standards," Bolston's agent Josh Wright told the Gazette. "And by seventh-round standards it's very good. They made it very clear they wanted him and anticipate him being part of their plans."
Bolston was convinced to sign with the Vikings because he became familiar with their situation when he was one of 28 predraft visitors the team hosted at Winter Park two weeks before the draft. He knows he will have an opportunity to play behind and learn from Pro Bowlers Pat Williams and Kevin Williams, but he also knows the Vikings don't have a lot of depth behind them.
Fourth-year pro Spencer Johnson recently signed his one-year tender with Minnesota and first-year pro Alex Guerrero was allocated to NFL Europa this spring. Defensive lineman Darrion Scott can also slide inside and play tackle in passing situations, but Bolston should have a solid chance to make the roster or at least the practice squad.
Scout.com says Bolston is a "quick, penetrating tackle who goes hard after ball carriers. Explodes off the snap, wedges between blockers and has a burst of closing speed. Works his hands to protect himself, redirects to the action and wraps up at the point. Improved his reads and ability to diagnose as a senior."
At 6-foot-3 and 305 pounds, he was a three-year starter with the Terps, registering 35 tackles, including 3.5 for a loss, as a senior and 38 tackles and 5.5 for a loss as a junior. He will need to improve his ability to shed blocks, according to Scout.com.
He didn't start to play organized football until his freshman year of high school, but a few years later he was holding scholarship offers from the likes of Florida, Penn State, Ohio State, Tennessee and Boston College, among others.
Now it's up to him to make the most of a "great deal" from the Vikings and earn the base salary in addition to the bonus money paid. That challenge will start this weekend with the Vikings' three-day rookie camp.
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