A Dream Free Agency Add for the Vikings

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Left in charge of the purple personnel — and let’s be thankful that I’m not — the Vikings would load up on pass rushers. No amount of sack artists would be enough for GM Joudry. Even the best QBs in the NFL struggle to get into a rhythm if the pocket is always collapsing, so I’d respond accordingly.

To that end, the Vikings will have some options in free agency. Everyone will think of the talent that’s in house (most prominently, Danielle Hunter), but there’s something to be said for plucking someone away from another team. Upon first glance, defensive tackle Justin Madubuike looks like an ideal fit in Minnesota.

A Dream Free Agency Add: Justin Madubuike

Very briefly, PurplePTSD discussed the appeal of Madubuike. The age and production stand out as being ideal for where the Vikings are heading.

Madubuike, who just turned 26, is sitting on 11 sacks in 2023. Accompanying that impressive total is a whopping 26 QB hits (for context, Hunter was sitting on 18 QB hits going into the Bengals game). Imagine what Brian Flores could accomplish if he had a penetrating DT to partner with his blitzing wizardry.

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports – Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

More often than not, Madubuike is operating as a 3T (349 snaps) or a 5T (196 snaps) in the Ravens’ 3-4 defense. Translating the football jargon into Vikings terms would mean a role that’s closer to Jonathan Bullard than it is to Harrison Phillips. Essentially, Madubuike is someone who lines up across from the guard and tackle (like Bullard) more than the guard and center (like Phillips).

Justin Madubuike has proven to be an excellent pass rusher while Bullard is employed due to his ability to stifle other the team’s running back. Madubuike’s 11 sacks in 2023 are sensational, especially when we remember that his previous career high was 5.5 sacks in the 2022 season.

Now, one thing to note is that Baltimore blitzes far less than Minnesota. Going into Week 15, the Vikings were blitzing 47.4% of the time whereas Baltimore was down at just 22.6%.

If Flores sticks around, the Vikings will need to ensure that the different approach still fits with Madubuike’s skill set. One would certainly think that more blitzing would mean better matchups for the DT, but it’s a factor.

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Arizona Cardinals
Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports – Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Putting up career-best numbers in a contract year is reason for some pause. Will the production continue after there is a huge contract? Impossible to say with 100% certainty, but there’s reason to think so. Effort doesn’t seem to be an issue for Mr. Madubuike.

Take a look at what PFF has to say: “His effort and intensity on backside pursuit plays have always been there, and now an improved arsenal of moves with a more explosive first step has Madubuike set to cash in big time.” The words that really stand out are “effort,” “intensity,” and “explosive.” Any defensive coordinator wants to be able to apply those descriptors to his players.

Brian Flores Weighs
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The same PFF piece offers a contract projection that’s pretty staggering: a 4-year pact that’s tipping the scales at $92 million, good for a $23 million average. Obviously, that’s a sizable chunk of money, the kind of commitment that isn’t going to be super easy to manage given the amount that’s being devoted to other excellent players.

Nevertheless, we also know that Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has been very willing to get creative with his contracts to get the finances to work. Teams regularly make major commitments in a manner that allows for short-term financial flexibility, so a huge contract doesn’t need to be a non-starter. If there’s a will, there’s a way, a maxim that’s especially true with the NFL salary cap.

Onboarding a pass-rushing 3-technique who is only 26 is the kind of move that can push a playoff team into a contending team. Or, at least, the kind of move that signals the Vikings are transitioning toward pursuing full-blown contention.

Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Reference and PFF helped with this piece.

K. Joudry is the Senior Editor for Vikings Territory and PurplePTSD. He has been covering the Vikings full time since the summer of 2021. He can be found on Twitter and as a co-host for Notes from the North, a humble Vikings podcast.