Vikings Miss Out on Sweepstakes for All-Pro Defender

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There’s no way to know with certainty if it mattered, but the Minnesota Vikings’ back-to-back losses almost assuredly ruled the franchise out of the Shaquille Leonard sweepstakes.

The Vikings have lost to the Denver Broncos and Chicago Bears in the last couple of weeks, dropping their record from a tempting and frisky 6-4 to 6-6.

Vikings Miss Out on Sweepstakes for All-Pro Defender

Leonard — unsurprisingly — joined the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday, as NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport tweeted, “Sources: The Eagles and former Colts All-Pro LB Shaq Leonard have agreed to terms on a 1-year deal after he took a visit to Philly last week. A potential big addition for the stretch run. Leonard also visited the Cowboys, but Philly was always the preferred spot.”

Vikings Miss Out
Indianapolis Colts linebacker Shaquille Leonard (53) talks to game official Grantis Bell on Sunday, Oct. 29, 2023, before facing the New Orleans Saints at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. © Jenna Watson/IndyStar / USA TODAY NETWORK.

And the Vikings’ alleged interest wasn’t just a fan-driven theory. Some fans, of course, thought adding Leonard would be intriguing, especially when Minnesota held a 6-4 record. But Minnesota reportedly inquired about Leonard. The Athletic’s Dianna Russini tweeted on Thanksgiving, “Multiple teams are discussing adding Shaq Leonard, including the Cowboys, Eagles, Vikings, and more. I was told Leonard is going to take his time making a decision as to where he wants to play.”

Leonard then cleared waivers after the Indianapolis Colts mind-bogglingly released the defender, and teams were reluctant to get on the hook for his contract’s remainder. So, Leonard hit the open market and wound up in Philadelphia.

Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni in the first half as the Philadelphia Eagles came to East Rutherford, NJ and defeat their division rivals the New York Giants 48-22 on December 11, 2022. Philadelphia Eagles Came To East Rutherford, Nj, And Defeat Their Division Rivals, The New York Giants, On December 11, 2022. © Chris Pedota, / USA TODAY NETWORK.

In October, Minnesota pursuing someone like Leonard — and expecting the plan to work — would’ve been laughable. The Vikings were 1-4 after Week 5, sending the team’s fans to mock draftboards and discussions about trade fire sales.

No fire sales materialized as Minnesota began winning games — five in a row, in fact — and suddenly held a 78% of reaching the postseason after Week 11, according to ESPN. Due to its driver’s seat playoff positioning, albeit the wildcard, the Vikings could’ve reasonably had conversations about men like Leonard and expected them to listen.

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Carolina Panthers
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Now, however, after the Vikings’ recent losses, the playoff probability has plunged to 51% per the same metric.

Leonard is a four-time All-Pro and three-time Pro Bowler, making his waiver from Indianapolis all the more confusing. Upper-echelon veterans, particularly four-time All-Pros, are rarely dropped unceremoniously in November outside of scandal.

Here’s the Eagles’ linebacking corps after the Leonard move:

  • Zach Cunningham
  • Nicholas Morrow
  • Christian Elliss
  • Ben VanSumeren

If the Vikings were truly interested in Leonard, via the Russini reporting, they’ll likely be able to pursue him in free agency (three months from now).

Indianapolis Colts linebacker Shaquille Leonard (53), center, during the game against the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. The Colts lost in overtime, 29-23. © Jenna Watson/IndyStar / USA TODAY NETWORK.

The Eagles have a +600 moneyline to win the Super Bowl after the Leonard add, third-best in the NFL behind the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs.

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).

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