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The Free Agent DE the That Vikings Should Target

Yes, Him.

Each day that passes, it seems more evident that the Minnesota Vikings plan to tackle the offensive line roster holes via the NFL draft. Guards galore tickle the free-agency wire, but so far, the Vikings have splurged on none of them.

Instead, general manager Rick Spielman has signed defensive players only. The Vikings offense performed fine and dandy in 2020 – despite a 7-9 season record – thus requiring few new faces for 2021 [or so it seems]. The team could stand to upgrade the offensive line because the pass-protection ranked 29th leaguewide per Pro Football Focus last year. Something must change to remedy this prevalent problem. Otherwise, quarterback Kirk Cousins will be under siege – per usual – in 2021.

Yet, to date, the only new players signed via free agency are Stephen Weatherly (DE), Dalvin Tomlinson (3DT), Nick Vigil (LB), Patrick Peterson (CB), Mackensie Alexander (CB), and Xavier Woods (FS). All defense – so why stop now?

Because of affordability and his relatively decent performance last season, the Vikings should sign EDGE rusher Aldon Smith.

Absence from Football

If it’s been a while since you’ve heard the words Aldon Smith – fair enough. He missed four seasons of football from 2016 to 2019. Due to multiple DWIs, a hit-and-run incident, some assaults, parole violation, and a circumstance where he allegedly bit a woman’s wrists, Smith was away from the NFL for a long time.

But when he was young, trouble-free, and employed by the San Francisco 49ers, Smith was marvelous. During his first two professional seasons, he tallied 29.5 sacks in 32 games. He was with the 49ers the year that they lost in the Super Bowl to Ray Lewis’ Baltimore Ravens. Smith was awarded All-Pro honors that season. He was jettisoned to the Oakland Raiders in 2015 where his personal troubles continued. Smith’s final game before the four-year hiatus was versus – you guessed it – the Minnesota Vikings in 2015. He recorded his final sack [before eventual reinstatement in 2020] on Teddy Bridgewater. The game also marked Danielle Hunter’s second career sack. Hunter has since registered 52.5 more.

Then, seemingly out of nowhere, Smith resurfaced during the pandemic season.

 2020 Reclamation

The University of Missouri alumnus made his return with Dallas Cowboys in 2020 . He accrued 48 total tackles, 20 quarterback pressures, 14 quarterback hits, five tackles-for-loss, five sacks, and two fumble recoveries. He even scored the first touchdown of his career with Dallas.

That is a lot of positive stuff. He played on 73% of all defensive snaps en route to a decent 66.3 PPF grade. The man can play.

And at age 31, Smith should have some redemption left in the basement. An argument can also be made that his body has less wear-and-tear because he was away from the sport for nearly a half-decade. In his heyday around the turn of the decade, Smith was a balanced defender. He is not a one-trick pony that solely rushes the passer. While his pass-rushing acumen is slightly more pronounced than his run defense, he is renowned for both attributes.

At a bargain price, the Vikings could utilize an asset such as Smith.

Weatherly and Smith Would be a Decent Compromise

Smith-to-the-Vikings accomplishes a few offseason tasks.

Foremost, his addition to Mike Zimmer’s defense would solidify the group as game-ready right now – the draft be damned. The Zimmer defense might even be set already, depending on one’s perception of Stephen Weatherly’s capabilities.

Smith just adds more sizzle.

Because he is still amid his reclamation story, his price tag should not be too lofty. Spielman did an astute job clearing cap space to sign all the men mentioned above, and Smith would be the defensive exclamation point. Minnesota has about $8 million in cap space as of March 29th, so nabbing Smith on a deal for a couple million is doable. Too, more cap space could be on the way if Spielman finagles extensions for Harrison Smith and Danielle Hunter – both men are on the docket for contractual attention.

A pairing of Smith with Weatherly or Smith with D.J. Wonnum is a respectable approach to the right defensive end spot for 2021. Think of it as low-risk, high-reward.

If Smith is not in the cards, well, Spielman can explore Kwity Paye of Michigan or Gregory Rousseau of Miami (FL) at Minnesota’s organic 14th spot in the 2021 NFL Draft – as many mock drafts predict.

Dustin Baker

Writer. Host of Bleav in Vikings Podcast w/B-Mac & Baker.

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Paul Redding
Paul Redding
4 months ago

We currently have 10 draft picks we will have to pay. Projected at just shy of 10 mil

Reply to  Paul Redding
3 months ago

Not all draft picks will make the team and for everyone that does, someone will have to go so it washes each other out

Brad Bartilson
Brad Bartilson
4 months ago

No mention of Smith’s efforts to change his destructive behavior? This can obliterate any of his value, and further, has the potential to negatively impact the rest of the players.

Jonathan willi
Jonathan willi
3 months ago

I the read did not.
I refuse to read articles that can’t even get the headline properly edited. Come on guys, unacceptable for this kind of stuff to happen

3 months ago

No. The institutional memory of the Love Boat Scandal will not allow this to happen, and I frankly don’t have a problem with that unless the rehabilitation has been proved and documented.

Paul Griggs
Paul Griggs
3 months ago

I think the Vikings options in the draft are better than Aldon Smith.

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