Bigger roles comes with big pay day for Vikings’ Metellus

Josh Metellus' rags-to-riches NFL story grew monetarily Thursday when the Vikings rewarded one of their more versatile players with a two-year contract extension worth up to $13 million with $6 million guaranteed.

What ensued was universal happiness at TCO Performance Center.

Special teams coordinator Matt Daniels said his reaction to hearing the news that Metellus will be a Viking through 2025 was matched only by the euphoria he experienced watching his alma mater Duke upset No. 9 Clemson last weekend.

"I always tell the group, if you just do the work, the money will come," Daniels said. "If you be so good they can't deny you, everything else will work itself out."

That, essentially, is the unfolding story of Metellus.

He was a 2020 sixth-round draft pick out of Michigan who got released the summer the pandemic canceled the preseason. He was signed to the practice squad. He hung around until he found a special teams niche that grew into a leadership role.

A year ago, he started a game at safety for Harrison Smith. It ended with Metellus making the game-clinching interception.

A new defensive coordinator, Brian Flores, liked what he saw when he arrived this year. Now Metellus heads into his fourth season as a team captain, special teams leader and a defensive tool Flores plans to employ at safety, in the slot or as a linebacker in his dime packages.

"He's a guy who loves football, who's smart … who's just overall a good football player," Flores said. "Good teammate, very willing to help young players, wants to know every piece of information from a coaching standpoint to understand the why just so he can make himself better."

Metellus stood before the entire team early in camp and told the story of his NFL journey.

"It was about resiliency," offensive lineman Blake Brandel said. "And confidence. Josh has a great story to tell. He's gone farther than a lot of people would have predicted."

Metellus said he was moved to tell his story because "I want to be that hope for somebody out there to keep working hard and it's going to pay off."

Daniels said the coaches discussed and nixed the notion of reducing Metellus' work on special teams to account for a much bigger role on defense than he had last year. He's that valuable, hence the contract extension.

"It's a true testament to who Josh Metellus is," Daniels said. "He's as unselfish as anybody who comes in this building."

Daniels challenged Metellus to up his conditioning to account for his larger role this season. Mission accomplished, said Metellus, whose typical offseason day included a 2- or 3-mile run before sunrise, bike work midday, lifting and on-field drills and yoga and breathing exercises in the evening.

That kind of work led to Thursday's news.

"Me and my wife, we couldn't even sleep last night, we were so happy," Metellus said. "We manifested a lot of things and to see things come to life and be able to live this dream, I would say it's really special for us. We've been here for four years. My goal is to be here my whole career."

Chandler earns trust as returner

Daniels said his level of trust in second-year running back Ty Chandler as a first-time NFL kick returner is "really, really high."

Chandler had 34 kick returns at the University of Tennessee and three at North Carolina. He averaged 23 yards per return with one touchdown, but his only return since then was a 56-yarder in a preseason game in 2022.

"In a kick returner, you want to have elite contact balance," Daniels said. "And Ty Chandler has that."

Daniels said he expects teams to start out returning kickoffs as normal despite the new rule allowing for fair catches outside the goal line to spot the ball at the 25.

"I quite frankly don't think [the kickoff] is going to die," he said. "It will live on."

Pace, Asamoah will both play

Flores said Brian Asamoah and Jordan Hicks will take the majority of snaps at inside linebacker on Sunday, but that doesn't mean undrafted rookie standout Ivan Pace Jr. won't see the field on defense.

"Ivan's done a lot of good things and hopefully we can get him in the game for some snaps and continue that trajectory he's on," Flores said. "[Asamoah] is coming back from getting dinged a little bit in training camp. Game 1, no one is really ready to play 80 snaps in an NFL game."

Injury report

Ryan Wright was added to the Vikings injury report with an ankle problem but was a full participant at practice. Troy Dye (elbow) was a full participant again. For the Bucs, Antoine Winfield Jr. was full go again with a calf injury. Rookie first-round pick Calijah Kancey was upgraded to limited with a calf injury. Guard Cody Mauch was added to the report as DNP with a back injury. Safety Kaevon Merriweather was upgraded to full participant and running back Ke'Shawn Vaughn returned to practice after missing a day for personal reasons.

Quote of the day

Second-year tight end Nick Muse is gaining a reputation for having a personality that's beloved by everyone on the team.

So offensive coordinator Wes Phillips was asked to describe said personality.

"It's kind of goofy, kind of, ah, weird," he said. "And I say that with love. I love Muse. … I don't want him to change."

Staff writer Andrew Krammer contributed reporting.