MINNEAPOLIS — The Vikings ended a one-year experiment with defensive tackle Remi Ayodele on Wednesday, announcing his release on the same day the NFL began levying harsh punishment in the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal.
Coincidental timing? Perhaps.
But Ayodele, who played in New Orleans from 2008 to ‘10, might soon be subject to league discipline if it is determined he was one of approximately two dozen Saints players implicated in the ongoing bounty controversy.
Just how much that factored into the Vikings’ decision to release the veteran nose tackle is unclear. A voice mail left for General Manager Rick Spielman went unreturned Wednesday.
During New Orleans’ 2009 NFC Championship Game victory over the Vikings, Ayodele and teammate Bobby McCray combined on a crushing high-low hit of Brett Favre that left the quarterback wincing in pain and needing treatment on his injured left ankle. There was no penalty for that hit at the time, but McCray eventually was fined.
The NFL later learned through an extensive investigation that New Orleans had targeted Favre with the intent to knock him out of the game, only one of numerous bounties set by the team and former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams during the past three seasons.
Ayodele struggled mightily in 2011, providing little impact at nose tackle. Officially, he started 13 games and recorded 15 tackles, hardly rewarding the investment the Vikings made in him. That included a signing bonus in excess of $3.5 million.
Last week, the Vikings secured needed depth at defensive tackle, re-signing free agents Letroy Guion and Fred Evans, both of whom will compete to replace Ayodele. Christian Ballard, a fourth-round pick in 2011, also should figure into the defensive tackle rotation.
Eleven days after releasing guards Steve Hutchinson and Anthony Herrera, the Vikings added depth back into their offensive line by signing free agent Geoff Schwartz. Originally drafted in the seventh round by Carolina in 2008, Schwartz, 25, spent his rookie season on the Panthers practice squad. He was elevated to the active roster in 2009 and eventually wound up starting all 16 games for Carolina in 2010.
But Schwartz, who has the versatility to play both tackle and guard, spent all of last season on injured reserve after undergoing hip surgery.