View Full Version : Johnstone stays, Ken Irvin close to deal

03-20-2003, 09:27 AM

03-20-2003, 09:27 AM
Thursday, March 20

Vikings hold onto defensive end Johnstone

By Len Pasquarelli

Even as they have pursed free agents from other teams in an attempt to repair a shoddy defense, the Minnesota Vikings were chasing one of their own unrestricted veterans, and on Thursday they landed him.

Defensive end Lance Johnstone, the team's leading sacker in 2002, on Thursday reached agreement on a three-year contract, ESPN.com has learned. The deal could be worth as much as $4.6 million, with incentives, and includes a $700,000 signing bonus. The first-year base salary is $655,000.

Retaining the seven-year veteran, who started all 16 games last season, was a key for the Vikings, whose offseason priority is upgrading the defense. A prototype "edge" rusher, Johnstone is the Vikings' best outside pass rush threat and he registered seven sacks in 2002.

Signed as an unrestricted free agent in 2001, he has 12 ½ sacks in his two seasons with the Vikings. Johnstone drew interest from several teams during the free agent period, but no one stepped up financially to the level that he was anticipating, and the Vikings remained dogged in their pursuit.

Minnesota coaches feel Johnson can still be a double-digit sack player.

Johnstone, 29, has 41 ½ career sacks to go with 290 tackles, a dozen forced fumbles, one interception and 15 pass deflections. While not particularly big, he possesses good quickness and plays the run better than most people think.

The former Temple star played the first five seasons of his career with the Oakland Raiders, who chose him in the second round of the 1996 draft, and he totaled 21 sacks for them in 1998-99.

In a related matter, the Vikings are deep into negotiations with unrestricted cornerback Ken Irvin and an agreement could be reached sometime Thursday.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.