Signs With The Vikings As Free Agent
During the 1990 NFL draft Randle was not selected in part because of his small size for the position he played. His play at Texas A & M did merit a workout with the Atlanta Falcons, but they declined to sign him because they believed he was out of shape. A week later, the Minnesota Vikings invited him to training camp, and Randle was later signed to a free agent contract. He played his heart out to prove his value to the team.
It took several seasons for Randle to emerge as a defensive force. In 1990, he only had one quarterback sack. In 1991, Randle started eight games and had 8.5 sacks. By 1992, he established himself as solid player and began his consecutive game start streak. Randle proved his worth as a leader in quarterback sacks and forcing fumbles.
Though Randle continued to post improved numbers in the mid-1990s, it was not until 1996 that he had a break-out season. This was due in part to a coaching change, but also to Randle's emerging approach to the game. He began to trash talk more on the field, getting into his opponents' heads. Randle also would paint his face, and developed his own physical pre-game ritual.
Randle continued to improve in 1997, with a career-high 15.5 sacks, the most in the NFL that season. Though he was a great defensive player, he had more to offer with his instinctual, relentless play that wore down offenses. Paula Parrish in the Star Tribune wrote, "his bigger contributions, according to teammates and his defensive coordinator, continued to be the intangibles—his leadership, his electricity, his experience."
In 1998, Randle became a free agent, but was the Vikings' designated transition player. (That is, Minnesota had the right to match any offer Randle received.) He had a hard time getting a deal done with the Vikings, and considered signing with the Miami Dolphins, among other teams. Randle ended up signing a five-year deal worth $32.5 million with $20 million guaranteed. This was the largest contract ever for a defensive lineman.
During the first season of his contract, Randle only had 10.5 sacks (his lowest number in years) and was not chosen to play in the Pro Bowl. In 2000-01, Randle was still playing relatively well, but had a disappointing season with only eight sacks and 31 tackles. Though he was sometimes double and triple-teamed, some observers believed his skills were in decline.
Randle believed his career was incomplete without a Super Bowl ring and believed that Minnesota was not progressing in that direction. Because the Vikings wanted to give him a pay cut, he asked to be traded. Instead, the team released him. When his career in Minnesota ended after 2000-01 season, he had recorded the third most sacks, with 114, and the third most fumbles caused, with 24, in team history.