The Vikings Have an EDGE Problem

Marcus Davenport
Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports.

Injuries are hitting across the NFL, and it’s no different for the Minnesota Vikings. One injury during Sunday’s game with the Bears means the Vikings have an edge problem. Marcus Davenport left the game with an ankle injury and will hit IR for at least four games.

The Vikings Have an EDGE Problem

Vikings Have an EDGE
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Davenport has already missed game time earlier in the season with an injury to the other ankle. He was also on last week’s injury report with an elbow injury. Davenport has been a difference-maker when he has played, but that hasn’t been enough, and it could be a while until we see him again. The diagnosis for Davenport is a high ankle sprain, which usually means an absence of 4-6 weeks.

Davenport’s injury history was a red flag when the Vikings signed him. He has obvious talent, but he can’t stay healthy. This is his sixth year in the league, and he has never managed to play a full season. Any hopes of his fortunes changing in Minnesota were dashed when he was inactive in Week 1. With another injury, his lowest number of games in a season (11) could be in jeopardy. This is why, despite his talent, Davenport could only get a one-year contract during free agency.

The Vikings already rely too much on Danielle Hunter when it comes to rushing from the edge, particularly when Davenport isn’t in the lineup. Some would have the Vikings trade Hunter during the next couple of weeks, but I don’t see that happening unless Minnesota badly loses the next two games.

Replacing Davenport

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports.

D.J. Wonnum will replace Davenport as the second starter on the edge. On Sunday, he had a good day in Chicago with seven tackles, including a tackle for loss and a sack, a QB hit, and a pass deflection. Wonnum is a good backup edge rusher to bring in alongside your starters, but in his fourth season, he hasn’t shown he can be the guy to wreak havoc on the opposite side to Hunter regularly.

Wonnum’s promotion up the depth chart will mean more opportunities for Patrick Jones and Andre Carter. If Davenport goes on IR, it will likely mean a call-up from the practice squad for Luiji Villain.

Could Minnesota look to bring in someone else to add to the mix? You only do that if you are still competitive. It would be worth considering if the team comes out victorious in Monday night’s showdown with San Francisco. The Denver Broncos recently released three-time Pro Bowl edge Frank Clark, but he seems poised to rejoin the Kansas City Chiefs before too long.

Next Season

The Vikings Will Stay Close to Home in 2023
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports.

The Vikings may decide to roll with what they have and hope Davenport’s absence isn’t prolonged. That is the most likely scenario. However, the Vikings edge problem gets worse when the season ends.

Hunter, Davenport, and Wonnum are all out of contract at the end of this season. That leaves Minnesota only two contracted edge rushers in 2024 — Jones and Carter. Jones was a third-round pick in 2021 with four career sacks, and Carter is an undrafted rookie with potential, but 2024 is likely too soon in his development to expect him to be a leader at the position.

Do the Vikings offer new deals to Hunter, Davenport, and Wonnum? Hunter is one of the league’s best pass-rushers and only turns 29 at the end of the month. He has a lot of football ahead of him and is sure to have a lot of interest when he hits free agency — assuming he isn’t traded away beforehand. It will cost a lot of money to keep Hunter in Minnesota, but he’s a player in a prime position that is worth the money. Unless the Vikings decide to scrap the competitive part of their planned rebuild,

Hunter is a player you want to keep. His $14 million dead cap hit next season is an issue, similar to what we saw with Dalvin Tomlinson this year. Hunter is more important, and no one is ready to step in. The Vikings need to add to Hunter and not try to replace him.

If Davenport proved he could stay healthy this season, he would be a candidate for a long-term deal. He’s exactly what the Vikings need: good against the pass and the run. Unfortunately, that’s not going well. Wonnum should get a good opportunity to prove his worth deputizing for Davenport. Play well, and he can stake his claim for a new deal or alternatively impress another team to lure him away.

The Vikings have a lot of thinking regarding what to do on the edge. With Hunter still in town, a reasonably priced free agent signing and a Day 2 or 3 draft pick might suffice. Without Hunter, they have a lot of work to do. We will see how this will all play out when we reach the trade deadline.