Cutting Remi Ayodele 'had nothing to do' with bounties, Spielman says
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PALM BEACH, Fla. -- If Remi Ayodele was released this week because of his involvement in the New Orleans Saints' bounty program, the Minnesota Vikings aren't saying.
General manager Rick Spielman on Sunday denied the possibility of a suspension was a factor in Ayodele's release and took the blame on himself for acquiring a nose tackle who didn't fit in coach Leslie Frazier's defensive system from Day 1.
"That's something where we made a mistake," Spielman said shortly after arriving at the NFL meetings, "and I'll put that on me making a mistake, as far as making sure that the players that we sign fit the scheme that we're trying to run."
Eight months ago, the Vikings gave Ayodele a three-year, $9 million contract that included a $3.565 million signing bonus, believing he could be Pat Williams' successor after two seasons as the starting nose tackle in New Orleans.
But Ayodele pushed back against the "tilt" technique coaches wanted him to play and ended up on the field for only 253 of 1,058 gradable snaps on defense (23.9%) and recorded just 22 tackles.
The Vikings released him on Wednesday just hours after the NFL announced suspensions of Saints coach Sean Payton (one year), general manager Mickey Loomis (eight games) and former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams (indefinite), whom the league found was responsible for running a system of illegal incentive payments that included cash for injuring opponents.
The NFL now is considering punishment for players who contributed money to the bounty pool or collected payments -- a list that could include Ayodele, who put one of several questionable hits on then-Vikings quarterback Brett Favre in the January 2010 NFC championship game.
Had Ayodele returned to the Vikings locker room, "(i)t would have been problematic," punter Chris Kluwe told 1500 ESPN on Thursday, "because now all of a sudden, you're talking about a guy who -- now everyone on the team knows that he was part of a program that deliberately tried to injure guys. And not just guys on other teams. It happened to us, the Vikings, and it's just a really tough situation that I don't think the front office wanted any part of."
However, Spielman pointed to the new deals signed by Letroy Guion (three years, $9 million, $2.5 million guaranteed) and Fred Evans (two years) as the main factors in cutting ties with Ayodele after one season.
The Vikings plan to use Guion primarily at the nose in his fifth season. They also apparently plan to get more from Christian Ballard, a fourth-round draft pick last year who also played end as a rookie and is "going to be a heck of a player and continue to make a jump," Spielman said.
That wouldn't leave much playing time for Ayodele even if he returned for a second season.
"It had nothing to do with the other circumstances," Spielman said of Ayodele's release.
"This was purely based on a decision that didn't live up to the billing and how he would fit into the scheme like we thought he would. Then, when we were able to sign Letroy back and Fred Evans back, we felt those guys were a better fit in what we were trying to do defensively than what Remi was for us last year."