MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings had been in search of a blocking tight end, with Rhett Ellison trying to work his way back from a torn patellar tendon. They got their man Friday -- and added another Minnesota native to their roster.
According to a league source, the Vikings signed former San Francisco 49ers tight end Brian Leonhardt to a one-year, $600,000 contract, adding the Spring Lake Park High School and Bemidji State product to their roster. The Vikings had been keeping an eye on Leonhardt through the first stage of free agency and finalized a deal with him Friday.
With Ellison's status in some doubt, the addition of Leonhardt -- who played four games with the 49ers last year and 12 with the Oakland Raiders in 2014 -- provides more depth at the position. The Vikings would like to make Kyle Rudolph a bigger weapon in the passing game and second-year man MyCole Pruitt would ideally have a bigger role as a receiver, too. Adding Leonhardt to the roster gives the Vikings the kind of pure blocking tight end that Ellison had been and gives them another solid option in the event Ellison's six-month rehab takes longer than expected.
Leonhardt played for the 49ers last year when Tony Sparano -- the Vikings’ new offensive line coach -- was their tight ends coach, and was also with Sparano in Oakland. He is the sixth free agent from another team the Vikings have signed this year and the fifth to have played for a current member of the Vikings’ coaching staff.