Why the Vikings Should Sign an Extra LB

Feb 3, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; New England Patriots middle linebacker Kyle Van Noy (53) celebrates after defeating the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings will embark on the 2023 regular season in 67 days, hoping to rectify a mostly awful defense from the year before.

In Ed Donatell’s system, the Vikings defense ranked 27th in defensive DVOA, 30th in points allowed, and 31st in yards allowed. Somehow, the franchise still won 13 games, nonetheless.

Why the Vikings Should Sign an Extra LB

Donatell departed in January, replaced by Pittsburgh Steelers linebackers coach Brian Flores a few weeks later. The new defensive coordinator has a documented history of defensive excellence, so most Vikings faithful expect an upturn in 2023.

But even with that lofty expectation in full view, Minnesota should sign one extra veteran linebacker. For context, here’s the current LB lay of the land for the Vikings:

LB1: Jordan Hicks
LB2: Brian Asamoah
LB3: Troy Reeder
LB4: Troy Dye
LB5: William Kwenkeu
LB6: Ivan Pace Jr.
LB7: Abraham Beauplan
LB8: Wilson Huber

And here’s why they should add one more from free agency.

The Asamoah Hedge

Should Sign an
Sep 25, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Brian Asamoah II (33) in action against the Detroit Lions during the game at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

Listen, Brian Asamoah had a wonderful rookie season — in spots. He played 119 defensive snaps, or about 11%. Folks merely assume he’s sitting on a breakout season, which is a reasonable theory.

But what if there is no true-blue breakout? What if he’s ‘just a guy’ as a linebacker?

Well, the Vikings would have two ‘just a guy’ personalities at the position. Jordan Hicks is a decent football player but not a Pro Bowl type. He fired up a 65.4 Pro Football Focus grade last year.

There’s always a chance, albeit small, that Asamoah doesn’t take off as folks predict — and then Minnesota would have to pivot toward Troy Reeder or Troy Dye. Signing a veteran starting linebacker can be the contingency plan for Asamoah’s development.

The Injury Hedge

Keeping Jordan Hicks Is a Smart Move by Vikings
Minnesota Vikings linebacker Jordan Hicks (58) against Green Bay Packers during their football game on Sunday, January 1, 2023, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. © Wm. Glasheen/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Table the ‘what if Asamoah isn’t any good?’ argument for a moment.

What if Asamoah or Hicks blows out a knee in August? Again — it would be one of the Troys, Dye or Reeder, on deck to start in 2023. Dye or Reeder don’t have to inspire utter fear in your heart, but a hypothetical Hicks-Dye linebacking combo would rank near the bottom of the NFL for production.

LB depth is a legitimate concern right now for the Vikings — when all these combatants are healthy. The prognosis in the event of an Asamoah or Hicks injury would be grimmer.

The FA Candidates

November 13, 2022; Santa Clara, California, USA; Los Angeles Chargers linebacker Kyle Van Noy (8) after the game against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports.

At this time on the NFL calendar, Lawrence Taylor isn’t walking through that door from free agency. Hell, we’d settle for prime Chad Greenway.

But no cigar, as the summer presents slim pickings at almost every roster spot via free agency. Still, veteran LBs live on the open market, and the list looks like this:

  • Kwon Alexander
  • Anthony Barr
  • Zach Cunningham
  • Myles Jack
  • Deion Jones
  • Kyle Van Noy

Van Noy especially has past ties to Brian Flores all over the place from New England to Miami.

So, no, not titans of industry. But the men above are gettable at a reasonable price.

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).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by OverTheCap.com.