EAGAN, Minn. — Ifeadi Odenigbo will suit up for the Vikings on Sunday, Oct. 13, against Philadelphia. It could have been the other way around.
While on Minnesota’s practice squad last December, the defensive lineman got an offer to join the Eagles’ 53-man roster for the final three weeks of the regular season. Surprisingly, Odenigbo turned down the invitation when the Vikings made him feel he was in their future plans.
"It’s kind of weird," Odenigbo said. "I could have been on their team now."
Instead, Odenigbo could play a key role for the Vikings in the noon kickoff at U.S. Bank Stadium.
In last Sunday’s 28-10 win over the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium, Odenigbo played a career-high 28 snaps and had his first regular-season sack since being taken by Minnesota in the seventh round of the 2017 draft out of Northwestern.
The Eagles won a playoff game last season while Minnesota missed out on a postseason berth, but Odenigbo believes he made the right decision by staying with the Vikings.
They made it worth his while. Last December, the Vikings raised his practice-squad salary to $28,235 a week, about four times the squad minimum of $7,600 and equal to what he could have made with the Eagles. And they agreed to tack on a $130,000 signing bonus to a two-year, $1.23 million futures deal he signed in January.
"How you win somebody’s heart is through money, and they won my heart clearly," Odenigbo said. "But I’m a firm believer that this is the place that drafted me, and they’ve kind of seen my development. When I met with them (after the Eagles offer), they seemed pretty honest about being high on me."
Cut from the active roster at the end of the preseason the past two years, Odenigbo still had to make the team. He spent all of 2017 on Minnesota’s practice squad. Last year, he had short roster stints with Cleveland and Arizona before spending the second half of the season on the Vikings’ practice squad.
"He worked extremely hard in the offseason, and I remember toward the end of last season when he was on the scout team, he was making those guys on the other side of the ball work really, really hard," Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer. "He kept getting stronger and more athletic. He came in here with a purpose of he was going to make the team."
Odenigbo has done more than just get a roster spot, he’s earned playing time. After getting into just one regular-season game in his first two seasons, he has played in all five this season, averaging 15.4 snaps a game.
"Ifeadi’s doing a good job for us," defensive coordinator George Edwards said. "He continues to get better from week to week rushing inside and playing a backup role outside."
The 6-foot-3, 258-pound Odenigbo is listed on the roster as a defensive end, although the Vikings have in the past worked with him at defensive tackle. Odenigbo was used primarily at end in spring drills and at the start of training camp, but the Vikings lately also have used him as an inside rusher in nickel packages alongside defensive tackle Shamar Stephen.
"They kind of like the mismatch with my speed and just the fact I have some experience playing inside now," he said.
Odenigbo was playing inside in the second quarter when he dropped Giants quarterback Daniel Jones for a loss of 12 yards for his first regular-season sack. He’s had 3½ in 12 Minnesota preseason games.
"That one was the real deal," he said. "It felt good."
So did his sack dance.
"I’ve been doing that sack celebration since I was at Northwestern," he said. "I was a big 'Game of Thrones' fan and I was like, 'How can I honor George Martin for this wonderful show?' So, I was like, 'Let me pull out a sword and point it at the sky.'
"But when I got to the NFL, I said, 'When I pull out my sword and point it to the sky now, I’ve got to put it in the ground.'"
Odenigbo did just that at MetLife Stadium. Now, he wouldn’t mind a sack Sunday against the team he could have joined last December.
"It’s nice that I got my first sack out of the way because you get a little antsy," he said. "Now, you can start rushing and be a lot more comfortable."