A Risky Free Agency Option for the Vikings
The Minnesota Vikings are in a difficult salary cap situation. That means making tough decisions regarding players already on the team as well as taking a few risks in free agency. Rick Spielman will have to get creative trying to find production on the cheap this offseason. One route to take is picking up players looking to prove themselves following an injury. Of the edge rushers in this category, Takkarist McKinley stands out to me.
McKinley’s 2020 season was derailed by a groin injury, which led him to being cut by the Falcons and 49ers before being signed and ultimately put on IR by the Raiders. He only played four games and now sits on the free agent market.
McKinley is an intriguing player because, when healthy, he can definitely add some depth to a pass rush. As we all know, the Vikings defense was ravaged with injuries in 2020, so they should learn from that and add some veteran depth. The 25-year-old defensive end can do just that.
In 2017 and 2018 McKinley recorded a combined 13 sacks and 25 QB hits. It’s not a massive statline, but he only got eight starts in that time. He certainly shouldn’t be a team’s number one option, but he wouldn’t be in Minnesota with Danielle Hunter and potentially a day one or day two draft pick there.
He won’t need to be paid like a top option, either. His contract in 2020 was right around $2.5 million, and he shouldn’t command much more money (he could even be paid less) than that in 2021 given his injury history. A one-year deal worth around $3-4 million is more than reasonable for a depth pass rusher.
I would also like to point out that, while his sack total of 3.5 in 2019 (his last full season) is not great, it still would tie Ifeadi Odenigbo’s 2020 season total for second on the Vikings behind Yannick Ngakoue. His QB hit total would also be second behind Ngakoue.
In terms of pressure rate, McKinley’s 2019 season and Odenigbo’s 2020 season are very similar. Per Pro-Football-Reference, McKinley pressured opposing QBs 20 times in 546 snaps while Odenigbo pressured 26 times in 696 snaps. Even at his worst, McKinley can help improve this d-line for a cheap price.
In 2017-18, McKinley lined up primarily from the right side. In 2019 he became a full-time starting left end. That was where the struggles began as he recorded just 3.5 sacks in 14 games. However, he still recorded 13 QB hits that season.
McKinley would seem to fit seamlessly into the Vikings scheme. Since becoming a starter in 2017, Danielle Hunter has played from the left end, as is typical for most top rushers.
With that position filled, McKinley would more than likely find most of his playing time from the right side of the line of scrimmage where he was most productive during his Atlanta days. He led the Falcons in sacks during 2018 from that position despite starting only eight games.
Like I said at the beginning, the Vikings are going to need to get creative and take some risks to add depth to the defense this year. McKinley’s injury history makes him a risky signing, but the amount of money he will likely command isn’t as risky as it could be. His potential when healthy and fit into the defensive scheme makes him a great candidate for Minnesota. Even if he doesn’t start, having him around takes pressure off whoever will be finding time at defensive end for the Vikings.