Vikings Sign an Old Friend to Fill the Void on Defense

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The Minnesota Vikings lost linebacker Jordan Hicks on Sunday, who had to undergo a procedure on his lower leg. Hicks developed compartment syndrome following a shin injury and is expected to miss a few weeks but will return soon. Because of his absence, the Vikings needed another linebacker.

Vikings Sign an Old Friend to Fill the Void on Defense

Vikings Sign an Old Friend To Fill the Void on Defense
Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports.

One way to deal with the injury could have been the elevation of practice squad player Nick Vigil, who started in Mike Zimmer’s defense in 2021. But Kwesi Adofo-Mensah surprisingly signed a different former Zimmer guy. Anthony Barr, Zimmer’s first draft pick and longtime defensive star, returns to Minnesota.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported on X: “With LB Jordan Hicks hurt, the Vikings are planning to re-sign four-time Pro-Bowl LB Anthony Barr, per league sources. Barr spent eight seasons in Minnesota after becoming the Vikings first-round pick in 2014.”

Now 31 years old, Barr used to be a foundational piece on Minnesota’s defense. He departed from Minnesota after his mentor Zimmer was fired and spent 2022 in Dallas, playing on an excellent Cowboys defense.

Eric Kendricks / Anthony Barr
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On the wrong side of 30 with bad knee injuries, there was still some interest over the summer, but nothing came to fruition besides some visits and workouts. Many fans remember him as a huge linebacker with elite athleticism, but coming out of high school, he played on the offensive side of the ball.

The defender was a star on UCLA’s campus after switching positions to linebacker. He started as a running back, unusual for a guy of his size at 6’5″. The position change was a massive success as he fired up 149 tackles, 23.5 sacks, and 41.5 tackles for loss in only two seasons on defense. Of course, he drew first-round interest because of his production and exciting athleticism on tape and at the scouting combine.

The Minnesota Vikings had just hired Mike Zimmer as their head coach and owned the ninth overall selection in 2014’s draft. Zimmer wanted Barr, and he got him. Barr was a staple of some excellent defenses under Zimmer’s reign in the following eight years and departed with him. The two were connected throughout their complete Vikings careers. Barr and his college and Vikings teammate Eric Kendricks were the two guys to perform Zimmer’s patented double-A-gap blitz.

Danielle Hunter
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Barr has been used differently in the NFL than in college, where he was a pass-rusher. Under Zimmer, he was an off-ball linebacker, and he was a pretty good one, playing in the Pro Bowl four straight times from 2015 to 2018. In 98 games with the purple team, Barr recorded 495 tackles, 39 tackles for loss, and 17.5 sacks.

With the departure of Zimmer and the hiring of 3-4 coordinator Ed Donatell, some folks hoped for Barr’s return to slide over to a pass-rushing linebacker position, but it never happened. He instead joined the Cowboys for the 2022 season and played a significant role on their scary defense, logging more than 600 snaps.

Now, after his return, he might be used more as a pass-rusher, fulfilling the dreams of many fans. Rookie Ivan Pace will most likely take over for Hicks as the top middle linebacker in Brian Flores’ defense. The second linebacker spot has been a rotational position, as the Vikings often play an additional safety instead. Josh Metellus has logged more than 90% of the defensive snaps.

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Barr still knows some of his new teammates. He fought many battles alongside Danielle Hunter and Harrison Smith. The new addition is a candidate to take the role of the rotational linebacker next to Pace, and he surely gives the team some veteran leadership and still some decent play. Flores most likely doesn’t want him to be on the field on every play as he is aging and has struggled with injuries, but in the same role as a rotational guy, he played well last season.

Of course, Barr will need some time to get used to the playbook and the new system, but he is an excellent fit. Earlier on Monday, Barr visited the Eagles, but he apparently liked Minnesota’s offer more.

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