The Minnesota Vikings, who essentially played with no fullback on the roster under Mike Tice, have added one of the NFL's best players at the position for the West Coast-style attack that first-year head coach Brad Childress will install for this season.
Two-time Pro Bowl performer Tony Richardson, an 11-year veteran who had played his entire career with the Kansas City Chiefs, on Tuesday reached agreement in principle on a two-year contract, ESPN.com has learned. The deal will pay Richardson about $2.5 million.
Richardson, 34, visited with Minnesota officials over the weekend, received a contract proposal on Monday and told the Vikings he needed a day to consider it. On Tuesday, he ended a long relationship with the Chiefs and with a city where he had become a fixture on and off the field and accepted the deal, which includes a six-figure signing bonus.
There were a number of teams interested in the classy Richardson, and there were even some discussions about re-signing in Kansas City.
Chiefs team president Carl Peterson said he was "personally disappointed" the team could not work out an arrangement to keep Richardson in the fold.
"I made it clear to Tony, as I on have on numerous occasions, that when he is finished with his playing career, I would like him to be a part of the Kansas City Chiefs organization," Peterson said. "That offer and promise still holds and we look forward to seeing Tony in the future."
A former Auburn star, Richardson originally entered the league with Dallas as an undrafted college free agent in 1994 and spent some time on the Cowboys' practice squad that season. He was released, signed with the Chiefs in 1995 and spent the next 11 seasons with the team.
A conventional fullback, one whose statistics aren't indicative of his contribution, Richardson is a solid lead blocker and receiver. His acquisition completes the remaking of the Minnesota backfield, which will be completely overturned from the one that opened the 2005 season, given that Brad Johnson replaces Daunte Culpepper at quarterback and free-agent addition Chester Taylor is the new tailback.
Having a strong character player like Richardson in the locker room will also be a plus for Childress as he attempts to improve the Vikings' image.
Richardson has carried 395 times for 1,576 yards and 15 touchdowns and has 177 receptions for 1,298 yards and nine touchdowns in his career. His best season was in 2000, when he posted career bests for rushing attempts (147) and yards (697) and also added 58 receptions for 468 yards. The durable fullback has played in 163 games and started in 96 of them. Richardson was named to the Pro Bowl squad following the 2003-04 seasons.
Senior writer Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com.