Core Piece of Mike Zimmer’s Defense Joins Bills

Major Pieces from 2017 Vikings Defense Now Undesired
Linval Joseph and Xavier Rhodes

Mike Zimmer supervised a scary defense for most of his tenure in Minnesota, at least until some of his foundational players left in 2020. He took over a poor defensive unit and transformed the group within a couple of seasons. One key piece just found a new home at age 35, perhaps his last stint in the NFL.

Core Piece of Mike Zimmer’s Defense Joins Bills

Core Piece of Mike Zimmer's Defense Joins Bills
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One of the staples of Zimmer’s defense was defensive tackle Linval Joseph, who joined the Vikes via free agency in 2014. He was one of the first acquisitions of the new head coach, and it turned out to be a wonderful signing. The Bills announced his arrival on Thursday morning. According to Mike Garafolo, he signed a one-year deal that could reach a value of $3.72 million.

Joseph handled the nose tackle duties and was an elite run defender for years. While he never received the same praise as flashier stars like Everson Griffen, Xavier Rhodes, Harrison Smith, or Anthony Barr, he was certainly just as important and ultimately made a couple of Pro Bowl trips.

His ability to single-handedly wreck run plays was a large reason the Vikings had a great defense. They didn’t have to focus on the run and send extra bodies simply because Joseph was there. The large human being was drafted in the second round by the New York Giants, where he spent his first four seasons. New York let him walk, and he joined Zimmer’s operation for six seasons before leaving in free agency.

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The Vikings lacked cap space and wanted to get younger in 2020. Joseph departed in the same free agency window as Griffen, Rhodes, and Trae Waynes. The defense regressed badly, but so did the aging players. He was signed by the Chargers but lost his superhuman power against the run. Joseph landed with the Eagles halfway through the 2022 season after a couple of seasons in Los Angeles.

He was a free agent until now and will likely be in a rotational role. Joseph has never been an effective pass-rusher, but he will help the Bills stop the run. They rank 21st in EPA/play on running downs.

The Vikings have tried to replace him but failed miserably at first. In 2020, they signed Michael Pierce to a large contract, and he was supposed to be the new nose tackle, the run-stuffing star up front. And indeed, he had the ability to do that. Pierce opted out of the 2020 COVID season because he has asthma.

Michael Pierce is Still the Guy to Build the Defensive Line Around
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2021 was supposed to be his comeback season, but an elbow injury limited him to eight games. The Vikings released the nose tackle after two seasons and only eight games, and he headed back to Baltimore, where he only played three games in 2022. So far in 2023, he has stayed healthy and returned to playing at a high level. During those eight games in 2021, he flashed his talent, but it didn’t work out because of injuries.

The Vikings also had Dalvin Tomlinson for two seasons, and he was a fantastic player. Undervalued by fans and media, he signed a massive contract in March with the Cleveland Browns. Currently, the Vikings employ Harrison Phillips, who has played well throughout 2023.

In his six years with the Vikings, Joseph appeared in 88 games, recording 350 tackles and 32 tackles for loss. He also managed to sack opposing QBs 15 times. His most memorable play was perhaps his touchdown after a fumble recovery. He rumbled 64 yards against the Eagles.

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