3 Free Agents Still Available if Vikings Want Defensive Exclamation Point

K.J. Wright
Dec 15, 2019; Charlotte, NC, USA; Seattle Seahawks outside linebacker K.J. Wright (50) responds to the Panthers offense during the second half at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Defense-only. That philosophy has been implemented by the Minnesota Vikings in free agency since mid-March.

Every signing enacted by general manager Rick Spielman is that of the defensive ilk. From Stephen Weatherly, Dalvin Tomlinson, Patrick Peterson, Mackensie Alexander, Nick Vigil, Xavier Woods, Bashaud Breeland, to Sheldon Richardson — operations are lopsided in the best way possible. The Vikings floundered defensively in 2020, creating a humongous outlier on the resume of head coach Mike Zimmer.

Spielman traded for an offensive lineman, Mason Cole, before the NFL draft. But that was about it for non-draft activities centered on offense. Then, Minnesota fortified the roster on offense with young men like Christian Darrisaw, Wyatt Davis, Kellen Mond, Kene Nwangwu, and Ihmir Smith-Marsette during the draft.

With training camp about three weeks away, the franchise owns roughly $14 million in cap space. Extensions could be doled out to players like Harrison Smith and Brian O’Neill. Spielman could holster the cash, saving it for 2022. Or more free agents may be on the docket.

Should the Vikings continue the defensive bombardment via free agency, these three men could serve as exclamation points to an already-robust offseason aimed at improvement.

Melvin Ingram

Melvin Ingram

Sep 13, 2020; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Los Angeles Chargers defensive end Melvin Ingram (54) celebrates after his fourth quarter interception against the Cincinnati Bengals during the second half at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Ingram is 32 years old, and the ex-Charger utilizes a “stand up” style on a defensive line. This would be akin to Yannick Ngakoue, a man that played for the Vikings a wee bit in 2020. Ingram was injured for most of the pandemic season when he encountered his first lackluster season in quite some time. As of late, he is good for about 7-8 sacks per season. That would do the trick opposite Danielle Hunter on Minnesota’s defensive line.

During his last full season, 2019, Ingram notched a 74.7 Pro Football Focus grade, displaying a knack for rushing passers more so than smothering running backs. And the Vikings need a pass-rushing savant. The team already has run-stoppers in Michael Pierce and Dalvin Tomlinson to stuff running lanes.

Teams like the Los Angeles Rams, Las Vegas Raiders, and San Francisco 49ers are linked to Ingram via the rumor mill. If the Vikings can land him, he would be perceived as an immediate upgrade to Stephen Weatherly, D.J. Wonnum or rookies Patrick Jones II and Janarius Robinson.

K.J. Wright

K.J. Wright

Nov 24, 2019; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz (11) is tackled by Seattle Seahawks outside linebacker K.J. Wright (50) during the fourth quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The acquisition of Wright for the Vikings would signify an embarrassment of riches at the linebacker spot. Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr reunite for 2021 after injuries disabled the duo’s presence for most of 2020. Nick Vigil was signed in March, likely holding the inside track to start at weakside linebacker. If Vigil is not in the plans to start, the next options would pivot to Ryan Connelly or rookie Chazz Surratt.

Yet, the Vikings have shown a desire to get deep-deep on defense this offseason. See: The signings of Sheldon Richardson and Bashaud Breeland. Adding Wright would be Richardson-esque from a too much is never enough perspective.

Wright will turn 32 in a few weeks, spending 144 career games in Seattle with the Seahawks. There, he reached one Pro Bowl five years ago while tabulating 941 career tackles. In fact, that 941 tackles since 2011 is the fourth-most in the NFL. The man can tackle.

Much like Ingram, Wright’s existence on the 2021 depth chart would be a noteworthy enhancement to a reconditioned defense. His PFF score normally lives in the 65.0-80.0 range, a welcome sight for the ultimate replacement of Eric Wilson, who left for the Philadelphia Eagles a few months ago.

Justin Houston

Justin Houston

Dec 13, 2020; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Indianapolis Colts defensive end Justin Houston (center) reacts as he yells at his teammates in the huddle prior to the game against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

There is no relationship whatsoever, but with the Kansas City Chiefs, Houston posted 22 sacks during the first season that Minnesota head coach Mike Zimmer coached the Vikings (2014). As of late, Houston is a reliable commodity for about nine sacks in a single season. This would be terrific on the other end of Minnesota’s defensive line.

Houston is 32 years old (there is a theme here, huh?) and recently spent two years with Indianapolis Colts. With the addition of Kwity Paye to Indianapolis, Houston is looking for a third act in the NFL. Minneapolis is a reasonable destination for the man that has the third-most sacks in the NFL since joining the league in 2011.

The Colts play a 4-3 defense. That’s what the Vikings utilize. Houston has the experience.