Flores Should Try to Lure an Old Companion to the Vikings

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings hired their new defensive coordinator roughly two weeks after letting Ed Donatell go after only one season with the organization. Brian Flores, the former head coach of the Miami Dolphins, is now asked to rebuild the Vikings’ defense, a catastrophic unit that is entirely to blame for the disappointing and premature ending of the season.

Flores Should Try to Lure his Old Companion to the Vikings
Brian Flores was fired after leading the Dolphins to two consecutive winning seasons. © BILL INGRAM /THE PALM BEACH POST / USA TODAY NETWORK / USA TODAY NETWORK.

That rebuild required a new defensive coordinator because Donatell objectively didn’t do a great job. However, the front office needs to bring new personnel to the roster, so Flores can turn around the defense as fast as possible. A few players will leave in free agency, as Dalvin Tomlinson, Patrick Peterson, and Duke Shelley are without a contract for the next season.

In addition, the defense could see some veterans leave, especially because the team is way over the cap limit and needs to save. A player that experienced the same thing in the past could be an option for the Vikings to re-load the defense without overspending.

Flores Should Try to Lure an Old Companion to the Vikings

Both 2022 starting linebackers could be on the move. By cutting Jordan Hicks, the purple team can save $5,000,000 in cap space, and doing the same with longtime defensive star Eric Kendricks saves $9,500,000. Considering that the Vikings are roughly $23,000,000 over that cap limit, they must make some moves. Both linebackers lacked the requisite speed to be effective in today’s NFL and were one of the biggest problems for the defensive breakdown.

Of course, the team needs new linebackers after getting rid of one or two of the veterans. One replacement could be 2022 rookie Brian Asamoah. He flashed his potential in limited snap time and absorbed some of Hicks’ playing time late in the season. Asamoah should be viewed as likely to start in the upcoming season.

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The draft and free agency are more options to get a new man in the middle. Pairing the inexperienced Asamoah with another inexperienced player doesn’t seem to be a great idea. The addition of a veteran is the way to go, especially one who has played in the Brian Flores scheme for most parts of his career.

Kyle Van Noy is an unrestricted free agent after his one-year contract with the Los Angeles Chargers expired. He played in New England from 2016-2019. For the Vikings, the time from 2016 to 2018 is interesting because Flores was the linebackers coach in New England at that time, so he directly coached Van Noy.

That chemistry led to Van Noy signing with the Dolphins in free agency in 2020, just one year after Flores became the head coach there. After one season, the Dolphins had to release Van Noy as a cap casualty. The hope of Vikings fans should be that there isn’t a grudge between the two and that the linebacker understands that it was just a business decision. It saved the Dolphins over $10,000,000 in cap space in that season.

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Van Noy then returned to New England for a year, where he was also waived after one campaign and signed with the Chargers. None of the two departures had anything to do with on-field performance, as he continued to play well.

Van Noy is also a perfect fit for the Flores scheme. He can rush the passer as an edge rusher and play off-ball linebacker, the position where the Vikings need help. Flores runs a heavy blitzing scheme, and he needs players who can be used differently. That’s where Van Noy excels. His skill set is unique in that way. Only a handful of players can be used as a pass-rusher and a linebacker. The best example is Cowboys star defender Micah Parsons. It makes the defense more unpredictable for opponents.

PFF recently praised the free agent:

The savvy veteran has played both as a true off-ball linebacker and more near the line of scrimmage rushing the passer in the past two seasons, offering a unique and valuable skill set to potentially interested teams, with grades above 60.0 in every facet in 2022.

Van Noy recorded a pressure percentage of right around 10% with at least five sacks in each of the past four seasons, and his 82.1 coverage grade over the past two seasons is fifth among linebackers. There aren’t many Kyle Van Noy’s out there, and he’s played at least 700 snaps in each of the past six seasons even as he gets older.

Brad Spielberger, PFF, about Kyle Van Noy
Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Spielberger is PFF’s contract expert, and he predicted Van Noy’s next deal at a total of $6,500,000 for two seasons.

Van Noy could be a great addition to the purple team. He is a leader and was a team captain in 2020 for Flores’ Dolphins. The linebacker offers flexibility and experience in the new defensive system. In addition to that, Van Noy is a two-time Super Bowl champion and could add some valuable postseason experience to the locker room. There is no downside to signing the veteran.

By releasing the 2022 linebackers and signing Van Noy, the Vikings could save more than $10,000,000 in cap space and would probably even get better at the position. Flores should give him a call and try to lure him to Minnesota.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt