Kleinsasser inks three-year deal

The Vikings made their first free-agent signing of the new year by bringing back a familiar face with the re-signing of 10-year veteran tight end Jim Kleinsasser.

With speculation rising that the Vikings may not re-sign veterans Matt Birk and Darren Sharper, they took a step to re-sign one of their veterans when tight end Jim Kleinsasser agreed to a three-year contract Friday.

The contract is worth $9 million and will likely allow Kleinsasser to end his career as a Viking. Drafted in 1999, Kleinsasser has played all 10 of his seasons with the Vikings, where he has earned the reputation as one of the league's best blocking tight ends.

According to his agent, Kleinsasser had calls from four teams when the free-agent period began. Despite catching only 17 passes over the last three years, his value as a blocker has made him a valued member of the team. The last time the Vikings used their franchise tag, it was on Kleinsasser. At the time, the Redskins and returning head coach Joe Gibbs were rumored to be ready to make a strong push to sign him, which prompted the Vikings to use the franchise designation to keep him.

Kleinsasser had expressed an interest at the end of the season to remain in the Twin Cities. He grew up in Carrington, N.D., and his wife, Crista, is a Twin Cities native.

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