Vikings Defensive Roster Projection | Pre-Training Camp 2023

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Minnesota Vikings outside linebacker Marcus Davenport addressed the media from the TCO Performance Center. Davenport joined the Vikings in March of 2023 after four seasons with the New Orleans Saints.

Eleven players departed the Minnesota Vikings this offseason, including Cameron Dantzler (CB, Bills), Eric Kendricks (LB, Chargers), Patrick Peterson (CB, Steelers), Adam Thielen (WR, Panthers), Dalvin Tomlinson (DT, Browns), Duke Shelley (CB, Raiders), Irv Smith (TE, Bengals), Kris Boyd (CB, Cardinals), Chandon Sullivan (CB, Steelers), Za’Darius Smith (OLB, Browns, Trade), and Dalvin Cook (RB, Free Agent).

Vikings Defensive Roster Projection | Pre-Training Camp 2023

Josh Oliver (TE, Ravens), Marcus Davenport (EDGE, Saints), Byron Murphy (CB, Cardinals), Dean Lowry (DT, Packers), Brandon Powell (WR, Rams), Troy Reeder (LB, Chargers), Joejuan Williams (CB, Patriots), and John Reid (CB, Falcons) were welcomed as notable newcomers via free agency.

Six men arrived from the 2023 NFL Draft, highlighted by wide receiver Jordan Addison in Round 1 and cornerback Mekhi Blackmon in Round 3.

Minnesota has 72 days until the regular season, so a lot will change in July and August. Here’s a look at how the Vikings defense might shake out.

Note: Many ‘projected to miss 53-man roster’ players could hit the practice squad, like DT Calvin Avery, for example.

Outside Linebacker

Defensive Roster
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

OLB1: Danielle Hunter
OLB2: Marcus Davenport
OLB3: Patrick Jones
OLB4: Luiji Vilain
OLB5: Andre Carter II

Projected to Miss 53-man Roster: D.J. Wonnum, Benton Whitley, Curtis Weaver

Vikings fans remain on pins and needles regarding Hunter’s status — he could be extended or traded this summer. And if he’s traded, Minnesota must fetch a startable EDGE in return or explore free-agent outside linebackers like Justin Houston, Yannick Ngakoue, or Robert Quinn.

Defensive End

the Basement for
Peter van den Berg-USA TODAY Sports.

DE1: Harrison Phillips
DE2: Dean Lowry
DE3: James Lynch
DE4: Esezi Otomewo

Projected to Miss 53-man Roster: Jonathan Bullard, Ross Blacklock, Junior Aho

Lowry has a starter’s resume and likely won’t be ousted next to Phillips. Lynch and Otomewo are trickier to project, but let’s roll with them over Bullard and Blacklock.

Nose Tackle

Vikings Keep Free Agent Defender in the Building
Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

NT1: Khyiris Tonga
NT2: Jaquelin Roy

Projected to Miss 53-man Roster: Sheldon Day, T.J. Smith, Calvin Avery

Some are high on the UDFA Avery, so keep an eye on him. Otherwise, this is Tonga’s job to lose — almost by default.

Middle Linebacker

Vikings LB Pretty
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

MLB1: Brian Asamoah
MLB2: Troy Reeder

Projected to Miss 53-man Roster: Troy Dye

Asamoah replaces Eric Kendricks, and the NFL draft was the evidence. The Vikings didn’t draft Trenton Simpson, Jack Campbell, or Drew Sanders, so let the Asamoah era begin in Minneapolis.

Weakside Linebacker

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.

WLB1: Jordan Hicks
WLB2: Ivan Pace Jr.

Projected to Miss 53-man Roster: William Kwenkeu, Abraham Beauplan, Wilson Huber

Folks should monitor Pace Jr., a classic ‘upside’ talent who was undrafted in April. Minnesota rushed to the UDFA wire for his services, and he could actually experience playing time in 2023.


Vikings Can Claim
Minnesota Vikings cornerback Byron Murphy spent four seasons with the Arizona Cardinals, a 2nd-Round draft pick. He was welcomed to the Vikings from free agency in March 2023.

CB1: Byron Murphy
CB2: Andrew Booth
CB3: Akayleb Evans
CB4: Mekhi Blackmon
CB5: Joejuan Williams

Projected to Miss 53-man Roster: Tay Gowan, Kalon Barnes, C.J. Coldon, NaJee Thompson, Jaylin Williams

The spookiest group on Minnesota’s depth chart, the unit leaves a lot to chance. It alone may determine if the Vikings are a playoff team. The postseason cannot be reached with a lousy group of corners, not in the modern pass-happy NFL.


Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

S1: Harrison Smith
S2: Lewis Cine
S3: Camryn Bynum
S4: Josh Metellus
S5: Jay Ward

Projected to Miss 53-man Roster: Theo Jackson

We still think Lews Cine will showcase a successful summer, returning from a horrific leg injury nine months ago. But make no mistake — Bynum and Metellus are hungry and could somewhat easily nab the free safety job over Cine.

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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