NFL Insider Relays that Vikings are “Collecting Information” on a Free Agent Defender and Former All Pro

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Carolina Panthers
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Kwesi Adofo-Mensah never sleeps.

Or, at least, he never tires of trying to improve the Minnesota Vikings’ roster (presumably, he picks up at least a few minutes of rest here and there). Per Dianna Russini of The Athletic, the Vikings are among the teams that are interested in acquiring Shaquille Leonard.

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Russini notes that the linebacker “has options” after becoming a free agent following the Colts’ decision to cut him. Take a look at how she frames the situation: “Leonard spent the last few seasons in Indy after signing a five-year, $98.25 million contract extension in 2021, but then injuries held him back. Now teams still in contention like the Eagles, Cowboys, Vikings and others are ‘collecting information’ on him. A league source said Leonard may take his time making a decision.”

As it stands, the Vikings are sitting on a touch below $7.5 million in cap space. Notably, the two specific teams she mentions alongside Minnesota both reside in the NFC.

The Vikings are Considering Shaquille Leonard

Losing Jordan Hicks to the IR changes the water on the purple beans.

The veteran linebacker had been thriving in the Brian Flores defense, regularly possessing a monopoly on the defensive snaps while the other linebackers — Ivan Pace, Brian Asamoah, Troy Dye — were relegated to part-time jobs. His recent shin injury made things a bit dicier, though.

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The Vikings have already signalled their intention to improve the linebacker depth by bringing Anthony Barr back to Minnesota. Barr got onto the field for a dozen snaps in Denver, picking up a tackle in the process. He’s long and very smart, attributes that will allow Brian Flores to move him around.

Safe to say, though, that Minnesota is always looking to improve. And, to be sure, the shot at someone like Shaquille Leonard is a unique opportunity. Flores has already proven he can rejuvenate a linebacker’s career. Will he get the chance to do so with Leonard?

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As a rookie in 2018, Shaquille Leonard walked away with the Defensive Rookie of the Year Award alongside being named as a first-team All Pro. He went on to make the second team in 2019 before snagging consecutive first-team All Pro nominations in 2020 and 2021.

That’s not that long ago, folks. Plus, Leonard is still only 28.

Past seasons have offered truly eye-popping numbers. His debut season, for instance, featured 163 tackles, 7 sacks, 12 TFLs, 8 PDs, 2 INTs, and 4 FFs. Breathtaking stuff. Now, the 2018 season can feel like ancient history in the NFL, but being an All Pro in 2021 speaks to the upside that could still plausibly be present in Leonard.

Aspect of Vikings
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The issue, as Russini mentions, is injury.

Last year, the linebacker was only involved in three games, starting just one. He has been involved in nine games in 2023 — starting all of them — but the situation in Indianapolis clearly took a turn for the worse.

Minnesota now finds itself with the unique opportunity to bring in a highly-accomplished defender in the final third of the season. The Vikings would be foolish to pay Leonard only for past performance and accolades. Football is perpetually focused on the future. If Leonard is capable of helping the Vikings win their upcoming games, then he’s worth considering. If, however, injuries have robbed him of the elite abilities that allowed him to shine with the Colts, then Adofo-Mensah will need to think long and hard about offering him a deal.

Given that he’s a bit older, had the significant injury, and received major money from the Colts, Leonard is unlikely to command a huge contract.

Minnesota’s next game will take place on Monday Night Football when the Chicago Bears visit U.S. Bank Stadium. Expect to see a pile of snaps being kicked in Ivan Pace’s direction and maybe even an increased workload for Anthony Barr.

The Vikings will then have the benefit of assessing where things stand with their defense as the bye arrives. If another linebacker is deemed necessary, then Shaquille Leonard could swap a horse shoe for a horn on his helmet.

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

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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.