PFF Hints at a Pair of Vikings Defenders Leaving for AFC Teams

PFF Hints at a Pair of Vikings Defenders Leaving for AFC Teams
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With the offseason now in full swing for the Minnesota Vikings, there are plenty of rumors suggesting who the team could lose and sign in free agency. After all, the Vikings are in a spot where they have an aging roster as well as a need to free up cap space to extend star wide receiver Justin Jefferson.

Because of that, there should be some big changes from the 2022 roster to the 2023 roster. PFF analyst Brad Spielberger compiled a list of defensive free agent acquisitions for each team, and on that list, he has a pair of Vikings defenders leaving for AFC teams. Those defenders are Patrick Peterson and Dalvin Tomlinson.

PFF Hints at a Pair of Vikings Defenders Leaving for AFC Teams
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Spielberger has Peterson heading to New England to play for Bill Belichick and the Patriots. Minnesota’s WR coach Keenan McCardell is also in the running to take over as offensive coordinator in New England. Here is what Spielberter had to say about a potential Peterson fit in New England:

New England had to get very creative on the backend in 2022, with very little size at cornerback and a much more zone-heavy approach than Bill Belichick has historically utilized. Peterson, who is 6-foot-1 and around 200 pounds, had a great season in Minnesota at 32 years old and has shown the ability to play all different kinds of coverages over the years. 

Peterson earned the second-best overall and coverage grade of his career in 2022 with 80.7 and 82.5 marks, respectively. Peterson’s coverage grade ranked fifth among cornerbacks, with his 16.4% forced incompletion rate ranking 19th while his 11 defensive stops in coverage tied for 24th. 

With the expected retirement of longtime Patriots safety Devin McCourty, Peterson also fills the role of a savvy veteran in the secondary amidst an otherwise very young group. Bill Belichick will surely put Peterson in a position to succeed, and he showed this season he still has some good football left in him.

The Simple Vikings Blueprint
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After a somewhat disappointing season in 2021 for Peterson, he returned to the Vikings in 2022 and played one of the best seasons of his entire career. During the year, he recorded the most interceptions (5) and pass defenses (15) since 2012. Now, in this projection, the soon-to-be 33-year-old cornerback heads to New England joining Devin McCourty to create a veteran duo in the secondary.

Additionally, Spielberger has defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson heading to another AFC team, the up-and-coming Jacksonville Jaguars. Jacksonville went out and spent more money in free agency than anyone during the 2022 offseason, and they selected EDGE Travon Walker with the No. 1 overall pick. Here is what the PFF analyst had to say about that fit:

The Jaguars defensive line took major strides in 2022 and became a formidable run defense unit but could still benefit from adding even more beef along the interior. Tomlinson showed great versatility going from playing a more pure nose tackle with the New York Giants to primarily three-technique with the Minnesota Vikings. He’s proven he can generate pressure from either alignment, and the Jaguars could stand to add more interior pass-rush juice going forward, especially since Arden Key is a pending free agent. 

Tomlinson has three straight seasons earning a pass rush grade above 70.0, with his 80.7 cumulative pass rush grade the eighth-best mark among players above 300 pounds. 

A slot cornerback could help in Jacksonville as well, but proactively reloading along the interior of the defensive line with Josh Allen and Travon Walker as the likely bookends at edge for years to come makes a lot of sense.

What Difference Does Dalvin Tomlinson Make?
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Indeed, the Jaguars seem to be set up for years to come at EDGE with both Allen and Walker at the edge, but they could use some beef in the middle of their defensive line to continue being a playoff contender.

Tomlinson has been nothing but consistent throughout his career, essentially equaling production year after year throughout his six seasons in the NFL. However, injuries popped up for the first time in 2022 as he missed four games in the middle of the regular season.

Despite the injury, Tomlinson has still recorded somewhere between 2.5-3.5 sacks in every season since 2019. He’s also been somewhere between 39-49 total tackles in each of those seasons. You know what you’re going to get year after year with the veteran defensive lineman, which could make him very appealing on the open market.

In the same piece, Spielberger has the Vikings snagging CB Byron Murphy in free agency, essentially becoming the injection of youth that the Vikings secondary needs. Other notable signings include Anthony Barr to the Chargers, Yannick Ngakoue to the Rams, and Sheldon Rankins to the Buccaneers.

Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho with a bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing. He also earned minors in History, Human Biology, and Journalism. When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh enjoys marathon training, playing video games, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. For more of his opinions, check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken.