Keeping Jordan Hicks Is a Smart Move by Vikings

The Vikings 2022 Defense by the Numbers: After Week 3
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The Minnesota Vikings started Monday by restructuring the contract of veteran linebacker Jordan Hicks, a deal worked on over the weekend. His teammates Eric Kendricks and Adam Thielen had to leave the team because the parties couldn’t find a reasonable deal everyone was happy with.

To sign free agents on Wednesday, the team has to get under the salary cap by Wednesday, March 15, 3 pm CT. However, they can start negotiating deals on Monday, but the first move on Monday was to keep a player on the team.

Keeping Jordan Hicks Is a Smart Move by Vikings

Releasing Hicks would have saved the Vikings $5 million of cap space and left them with a dead cap hit of $1.5 million dead cap hit in 2023. That was a realistic outcome, but the front office and Hicks came together and reworked the deal and most likely found a middle ground. The exact details are not yet available.

Keeping Jordan Hicks Is a Smart Move by Vikings
Minnesota Vikings linebacker Jordan Hicks (58) against Green Bay Packers during their football game on Sunday, January 1, 2023, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. © Wm. Glasheen/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Hicks joined the Vikings in 2022 and recorded 129 total tackles, 3 sacks, and one forced fumble. The linebacker previously played in Philadelphia and Arizona.

For Hicks, a pay cut makes sense if he still earns more money than he would have on the open market, but that is a two-way street. If the Vikings let Hicks march out of the building, they would’ve had to replace him, which most likely had cost some extra money for a similar player, considering Hicks’ dead cap hit.

The Vikings keep a defender on the roster who is still a solid player. Hicks is one of the best inside linebackers in the business regarding stopping the run and rushing the passer. His grade from Pro Football Focus reflects that. In 2022, Hicks had an overall grade of 65.4, which ranked him 34th among linebackers.

His issues came in the passing game when he had to cover, an area in which he struggles. Most remember Cowboys running back Tony Pollard scoring on a wheel route. Hicks lacked the speed to keep up with one of the fastest players in the league. He had a 50.4 coverage grade, but his run defense is outstanding. In the last season, Hicks had a run-stop rate of 9.6%, the fourth-highest mark of linebackers with at least 250 run defense snaps.

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Defensive coordinator Brian Flores worked in New England for years when they had a big-bodied linebacker. 260-pound Dont’a Hightower played a big role for the Patriots. Kyle Van Noy played that role in Miami when Flores was head coach there.

While Hicks is not a perfect copy of the two, some similarities exist. All are big linebackers who can wreak havoc at the line of scrimmage but struggle in the open field and coverage. There will be a role for Hicks in the defense, and it’s on Flores to use him in a better way than Ed Donatell in 2022. Hicks is currently expected to start next to Brian Asamoah, who is the opposite player type.

The Vikings 2022 Defense by the Numbers: After Week 12
Minnesota Vikings linebacker Za’Darius Smith, left, and linebacker Jordan Hicks, right, celebrate with D.J. Wonnum. © Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Another positive is that the Vikings are not pressured to add another linebacker. They could still try to upgrade the position, but the team is not in desperation mode.

Long story short, the Vikings save money, keep a player with an interesting skillset in the building and keep some flexibility at the position. Kwesi Adofo-Mensah started into his second free agency period in charge with a smart move.

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