UPDATE: Ben Goessling of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune is reporting that Mata’afa did not have to clear waivers and has, in fact, been placed on the Injured Reserve list.
The Vikings placed Hercules Mata’afa on injured reserve; he wasn’t required to clear waivers because of a new league rule, the team said. The roster remains at 90 players after the addition of Mike Needham, and Mata’afa is on IR.— Ben Goessling (@GoesslingStrib) June 21, 2018
On Wednesday, the Minnesota Vikings waived a player that many of us had high hopes for and signed a player that looks to be a bit of a project at the linebacker position.
The team announced that they have waived defensive lineman Hercules Mata’afa, who had torn an ACL during OTAs a couple of weeks ago. An undrafted free agent out of Washington State, Mata’afa had worked out at both linebacker and defensive line for the Vikings before getting injured.
Mata’afa was waived with an injury designation, which means that if nobody claims him off of waivers, he will revert to the Vikings’ injured reserve list.
To fill that roster spot, the Vikings signed linebacker Mike Needham. Needham went undrafted in April after playing his college ball at Southern Utah University, and he had a pretty successful college career for the Thunderbirds. He was a three-time first-team All-Big Sky Conference selection at linebacker, and collected 100 tackles in his final season with the team. He also had seven tackles for loss, along with seven pass breakups and two fumble recoveries.
Our friends from Revenge of the Birds went so far as to name Needham as their #1 Undrafted Free Agent gem. Here’s what they had to say about him.
Needham (6’2/227) is listed by Pauline as the best three-down small-school linebacker in the class, behind South Carolina State Darius Leonard who might go in the first three rounds. “Needham is athletic, covers a lot of area on the field and really stands out in pursuit,” writes Pauline. “His aggressive nature makes many believe he’ll be a standout on special teams.” He mentions the Titans, Vikings, Jaguars and Texans as teams interested in his services, and Pauline believes he’ll either go late on Day 3 or sign as a priority free agent.
Here’s a brief highlight video of Needham for your consumption.
I’m not sure if Needham has a chance at making the 53-man roster with the Vikings, but at least he’s going to be getting a chance.
Welcome to Minnesota, Mike Needham!