Arizona fired its own shot in the never-ending build-up of the NFC West Thursday by signing linebacker Jasper Brinkley to a three-year contract.
Brinkley, a fifth-round draft pick of the Vikings in 2009, became a full-time starter last season when the team opted not to re-sign veteran E.J. Henderson. Brinkley started 15 games last season, recording 114 tackles and three forced fumbles.
After not being part of the six-player re-signing binge on the day free agency opened Tuesday, Brinkley visited the Giants on Wednesday, but left without a contract. After meeting with the Cardinals front office Thursday, a deal was struck.
"Thanks to everyone in MN for all the support over my last four years," Brinkley tweeted Thursday night. "It really was a blessing to play with some great guys n great fans."
With Brinkley gone, the current Vikings depth chart has Audie Cole, a seventh-round draft pick last year, and Tyrone McKenzie and Larry Dean behind starters Chad Greenway and Erin Henderson.
Brinkley finished third on the Vikings in 2012 with his 114 tackles, behind only Greenway (184) and Harrison Smith (133). The signing of Brinkley by the Cardinals opens the door for the Vikings to either find a veteran middle linebacker in free agency or focus one of their first-round picks at the position – at this point, only Notre Dame's Manti Te'o and LSU's Kevin Minter rated as first-round MLB prospects (some see Alec Ogletree as a middle linebacker; others an outside linebacker).
While the Vikings have a long time before the regular season opener, for the third straight year they enter the start of a new season with front-burner questions at middle linebacker.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
Jasper Brinkley completed his first year as a starter and is scheduled for free agency. What will…