Vikings Reportedly Have Interest in All-Pro Free Agent

Jenna Watson USA Today Network via Indianapolis Star

Slightly over a week ago, the Minnesota Vikings lost inside linebacker Jordan Hicks to compartment syndrome, an ailment that will sideline the veteran defender until at least Christmas Eve.

In Hicks’ stead, Minnesota signed a beloved alumnus, Anthony Barr, to help ease the pain while promoting rookie linebacker Ivan Pace to a more prominent role.

Vikings Reportedly Have Interest in All-Pro Free Agent

Now, however, the Vikings — and 30 other NFL teams — have the opportunity to become richer at the ILB spot after the Indianapolis Colts befuddlingly waived Shaquille Leonard on Tuesday.

Interest in All
Indianapolis Colts linebacker Shaquille Leonard (53) reacts to a stop Sunday, Oct. 22, 2023, during a game against the Cleveland Browns at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. © Jenna Watson/IndyStar / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Leonard then cleared waivers as teams were reluctant to get on the hook for his contract’s remainder, and can sign anywhere in the NFL.

And according to one credible source, the Vikings are interested. 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.”

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.

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 holds 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 can reasonably have conversations about men like Leonard and expect them to listen.

Aspect of Vikings
Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

Meanwhile, don’t look now, but the Vikings possess a Top 10 defense per EPA/Play and DVOA. It took four weeks to get humming, but after Minnesota lost to the Los Angeles Chargers, Brian Flores’ defense morphed into a wonderful bunch, hellbent on a blitz frenzy that would make the song Ballroom Blitz envious.

Leonard’s presence, especially in place of Hicks, would be remarkable.

The 28-year-old is a four-time All-Pro and three-time Pro Bowler, making his waiver from Indianapolis all the more mystifying. Upper-echelon veterans, particularly four-time All-Pros, are rarely dropped unceremoniously in November outside of scandal.

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.

Leonard will likely sign with a contending team for the veteran minimum to finish 2023, as the Colts have already paid him — handsomely. Then, after this season, he’ll fetch at least one more robust contract, perhaps with the team he joined in 2023.

According to Russini, that could be the Vikings, a club that signed Dalton Risner in September, traded for Cam Akers shortly thereafter, bartered for Joshua Dobbs at the trade deadline, and wasn’t afraid to reunite with the aforementioned Barr.

In six seasons, Leonard has banked 614 total tackles, 32 tackles for loss, 31 passes defended, 17 forced fumbles, 15 sacks, and a touchdown. He isn’t called The Maniac for nothin’.

Leonard entered the NFL the same day as Vikings right tackle Brian O’Neill.

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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