Image courtesy of Vikings.com

[Note: This segment is a part of a position-by-position look at what the Minnesota Vikings might be inclined to do during the 2015 free agency period. This is the 10th article, focusing on the defensive tackles and nose tackles. In case you missed it, feel free to check out the quarterbacksrunning backstight endsfullbackswide outsspecialistssafeties, cornerbacks, and defensive ends.]

Yesterday, we discussed the Vikings’ biggest needs at defensive end, which include adding depth behind Brian Robison and addressing Corey Wootton’s expiring contract. Many fans enjoy watching the edge rushers, as they tend to be one of the more disruptive defensive groups. Without a solid nose or defensive tackle, though, players like Everson Griffen wouldn’t be nearly as successful as they were in 2014.

Currently, Mike Zimmer’s 4-3 scheme is buoyed by one of the league’s better rotations of interior defensive linemen. Below, a look at each player’s 2014 defensive snaps:

NamePositionInjuryWed.Thurs.Fri.Status
Bryce CallahanCBQuadricepDNPDNPDNPDoubtful
Alshon JefferyWRCalfLPDNPLPQuestionable
Sherrick McManisCBConcussionDNPDNPLPQuestionable
Parnell McPheeLBKneeLPLPLPQuestionable
Zach MillerTEIllnessDNPLPLPQuestionable
Tracy PorterCBAnkleLPLPLPQuestionable
Will SuttonDLKneeLPLPLPQuestionable

Last year’s big free agent signing, Linval Joseph, missed the majority of training camp after suffering a calf injury in a freak accident — he was struck by a bullet outside of a club in early August. It took Joseph time to warrant his five-year, $31.5 million contract, but he finished the season with a string of solid performances. Heading into 2015, Joseph will have the benefit of participating in a full training camp, adding an element of mental confidence to his excellent combination of power, speed, and size.

Next to Joseph, Sharrif Floyd blossomed into an above-average nose tackle for the Vikings. The second-year player out of Florida finished the 2014 season with 42 tackles, 4.5 sacks, and 30 quarterback pressures. However, Floyd missed two games with knee injuries and only played in 52.5 percent of all defensive snaps. He’ll need to stay healthy next season, but head coach Mike Zimmer believes that Floyd is “a very conscientious hard-working kid who has a chance to be a very good three technique.”

While Joseph and Floyd are “sure things” heading into 2015, a larger question lingers over Rick Spielman’s head — what will the Vikings do with defensive tackle Tom Johnson? After signing a one-year, $845,000 last season, Johnson surprised many with  a 6.5-sack, 30-quarterback pressure outing in 2014. He finished the year as a key rotational player, but is set to hit free agency — Johnson’s representatives met with Vikings officials at the NFL Combine, but failed to reach an agreement on a new contract.

As of now, the Vikings need to prepare for Tom Johnson’s departure. If he does seek a deal with another team, there will be more than a few replacement options in free agency. Below is a list of players that the Vikings may target, as compiled by Sportrac:

NamePositionInjuryWed.Thurs.Fri.Status
Josh RobinsonCBConcussionDNPLPFPProbable
Adrian PetersonRBAnkle/ShoulderDNPDNPFPProbable
Rhett EllisonTEAnkleDNPDNPLPProbable
Harrison SmithSKnee/HamstringLPLPLPProbable
Anthony BarrLBKneeLPLPFPProbable
Linval JosephDTFootLPLPFPProbable
Everson GriffenDEShoulderLPLPFPProbable
Sharrif FloydDTNon Injury RelatedLP__________Probable
Charles JohnsonWRAnkleFPFPFPProbable
Jerick McKinnonRBHamstring_____LPFPProbable

Similar to their approach with defensive ends, the front office won’t target this year’s bigger free agent names. Players like Ndamukong Suh, Terrance Knighton, and Nick Fairley are set to hit the open market, but the Vikings are confident with their starting talent. Right now, the most pressing need is depth behind Linval Joseph. How can each of the players above fill that role?:

KENDALL LANGFORD: Langford started 16 games for the Rams in 2013, but was hurdled by rookie Aaron Donald the following season. In a reserve role, Langford finished the season with 25 tackles and 1 sack while playing in less than 50 percent of all defensive snaps. Langford was set to make $6 million in 2015 and will likely seek a starting role with another team.

JARED ODRICK: At 27 years-old, Odrick is in the prime of his career and set to demand an interest from needy teams. The versatile interior defensive lineman finished the 2014 season with 29 tackles, 1 sack, and 5 passes defended on Miami’s aggressive defense. Like Miami, Zimmer’s defenses feature shifts and rotations on the defensive line, and Odrick would contribute both inside and outside. But, he’s spent the past few seasons in a starting role and may pursue more money than the Vikings can afford to spend.

HENRY MELTON: According to the Dallas Morning News, the Cowboys recently declined to pick up Melton’s 3-year, $24 million option. If the Cowboys aren’t willing to pay Melton $8 million per year, what would the Vikings be willing to negotiate? Melton is a talented pass rusher, but is entering his second straight season as an unrestricted free agent — a sign of his inability to mesh with the different coaching staffs. Zimmer is a no-nonsense coach, and the Vikings may kick the tires on a player of Melton’s caliber.

C.J. MOSLEY: On one of the league’s most ferocious defensive lines, the Lions’ C.J. Mosley made a measurable impact — he recorded 26 tackles and 2.5 sacks in 2014. The 31-year-old started 8 games in Fairley’s place, and could be re-signed if either Suh or Fairley leaves in free agency. Like Tom Johnson before him, Mosley would join the team as a relatively unproven veteran, but has the potential to make an immediate impact.

Prediction

The Vikings’ biggest priority is bringing back Johnson, who should be re-signed after a breakout season. Johnson was an astoundingly cheap acquisition in free agency last year, and his 6.5 sacks in 2014 are more than enough to warrant a new contract with the team. The staters are set, and all that remains is addressing depth behind Linval Joseph.

While the free agent market is littered with a handful of talented players, most of the realistic options are seeking starting roles with other teams or will be re-signed. With that being said, players like Miami’s Jared Ordrick deserve a hard look, and may be able to contribute at multiple spots along the defensive line.

What do you think, Vikings fans? Will Rick Spielman look to the draft, sign a free agent, or bring Johnson back to the team? Let us know in the comments below!