One Viking on ‘Players Under the Most Pressure’ List

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings traded Za’Darius Smith to the Cleveland Browns on May 12th along with a 6th- and 7th-Round pick, in exchange for two 5th-Rounders. Smith had asked to leave the team two months prior, and the club granted his wish well after free agency and the 2023 NFL Draft.

One Viking on ‘Players Under the Most Pressure’ List

Meanwhile, general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah signed outside linebacker Marcus Davenport from the New Orleans Saints — a few days after Smith tweeted goodbye in March — nominating Davenport for Smith’s job this September.

And according to Bleacher Report, Davenport is under a tremendous amount of pressure to perform, so much so that he made a list of 10 NFLers fitting the ‘most pressure’ criteria.

the Most Pressure'
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports.

Davenport joined the Vikings for one year and $13 million, so the deal truly is a prove-it agreement, meaning Minnesota can re-sign the 26-year-old next offseason if he balls out. Back-to-back Vikings general managers, Rick Spielman and Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, are fond of short-term deals for incoming free agents, and Davenport is no different.

Describing Davenport as one of the 10 players under the most pressure in 2023, Bleacher Report’s Gary Davenport wrote, “Davenport is like so many others here in that he’s a former first-round pick who hasn’t met expectations. At his introductory presser in Minnesota, Davenport was the first to admit that he has disappointed somewhat to this point in his career.”

Naughty List
Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports.

Davenport logged 0.5 sacks in 2022, despite a healthy amount of quarterback pressures. Still, Saints fans and even new Vikings onlookers chided the sack statistic because, well, 0.5 sacks for a starting EDGE rusher is some skullduggery.

“With Za’Darius Smith now in Cleveland, Davenport will be counted on to start opposite Danielle Hunter in 2023 for a Vikings team that won 13 games and the NFC North in 2022. Add to that the fact that $13 million pact is for just one year, and this could be Davenport’s last chance to show that he’s capable of being an impact defender in the NFL,” Bleacher Report opined.

Vikings Latest Free
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports.

In March, Marcus Davenport told’s Kevin Patra about the disappointment over his 0.5-sack season in 2022, “I’m still upset. But you know, that’s just fuel for the future. I kind of go over my play and see that I didn’t capitalize, as much as I would say that I had some success in matchups and was putting the pressures [on the quarterback], but I wasn’t necessarily being the smartest player to know when to capitalize and how to capitalize, using my teammates, using the scheme and just overall winning.”

The ex-Saint has battled durability and consistency issues since entering the NFL in 2019.

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports.

He concluded, “Really, I just want to start from zero. I need to know my game. And then I have to study other people’s games way better because I want to dominate. As far as the past, I’m really trying to let go of everything and just keep walking forward and looking forward.”

Starting from zero was also code at the time. Davenport will become the first player in Vikings history to wear jersey No. 0 in September. We shall see if it does the trick.

Other players facing pressure, according to Bleacher Report? Justin Fields of the Chicago Bears, Trey Lance with the San Francisco 49ers, and Calvin Ridley in Jacksonville, among others.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by