Injury Perhaps Ends Defender’s Vikings Career

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

It was a brutal Christmas Eve for Vikings fans as they lost the NFC North to the Detroit Lions for the first time in three decades, putting their playoff hopes in doubt. In addition to that, the franchise lost a bunch of players to injuries. The team is slowly falling apart, so even reaching the playoffs seems to be a stretch, with only two games remaining.

Injury Perhaps Ends Defender’s Vikings Career

Injury Perhaps Ends Defender's Vikings Career
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Tight end T.J. Hockenson suffered a serious knee injury, sources tellVikingsTerritory. He will not break the franchise’s single-season yardage record for tight ends, an achievement that still belongs to Joe Senser, falling 40 yards short. Rookie sensation Jordan Addison left the game with an ankle injury, and his former college teammate cornerback Mekhi Blackmon sustained a shoulder injury.

But he wasn’t the only defender to depart from the divisional clash. D.J. Wonnum was carted off. He suffered a partially torn quad. He will miss the final two games and a potential playoff contest.

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NFL insider Ian Rapoport tweeted on X: “Vikings OLB DJ Wonnum, in the midst of a career year with 62 tackles and 8 sacks, suffered a partially torn quad, source said, an indication he’s played his last down this season. Coach Kevin O’Connell said it was a serious, adding: You can see what DJ means to our team.”

For Wonnum, the injury is devastating as the defender is scheduled to be a free agent in March, and now he will miss another two games to showcase his worth to 31 NFL franchises. He also made a decent case for a contract extension in his fourth campaign with Minnesota, racking up a tied career-high eight sacks and a career-best 62 tackles, dramatically improving his run defense.

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That run defense used to be his weakness as he is one of the lighter edge defenders in the NFL, but he has been wonderful in 2023 under the watch of defensive coordinator Brian Flores. Marcus Davenport was signed in March to take over for the departed Za’Darius Smith, but a pair of ankle injuries kept him out of all but four games, allowing Wonnum to have a massive role, playing 828 defensive snaps in 15 games (14 starts).

The Vikes have an empty outside linebacker room. Hunter, Davenport, and Wonnum are all in the final years of their contracts, leaving Patrick Jones, who had a big day against the Lions, and undrafted rookie Andre Carter as the only two players at the position.

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

For that reason, general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah will look to re-sign them or spend in free agency for another veteran while also observing the upcoming draft class. Bringing in a couple of solid pass rushers (or keeping Wonnum and/or Hunter) would give the GM some more freedom in the draft.

Former fourth-rounder Wonnum is 26 years old and has played in 62 games with the Vikings, including 31 starts. He has 23 career sacks and scored once on a fumble recovery against the Carolina Panthers earlier in the season.


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

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