Vikings Appear to Signal End for 1 — Maybe 2 — Veteran Defenders

The Minnesota Vikings had a quiet little deadline Monday that passed with little fanfare.

February 20th was the day for Dalvin Tomlinson‘s and Patrick Peterson‘s dead cap penalties to cement against the Vikings books in 2023 if no action was taken. And unless moves are announced retroactively — which really isn’t a thing — nothing happened. Tomlinson and Peterson were not extended. They’ll hit the open market in free agency.

Vikings Appear to Signal End for 1 — Maybe 2 — Veteran Defenders

While the two could still return to the Vikings next season, ensuring that happens likely would’ve occurred today. General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah could’ve re-signed Tomlinson or Peterson, spread the cap penalties equitably to future years of his choosing, and voila, the men would be reunited with the 2023 roster with money distributed “later” accordingly.

Vikings Appear to Signal
Dec 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson (94) celebrates a tackle against the New York Giants during the first quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Luke Braun from the Locked on Vikings podcast tweeted, “Per Over The Cap, Vikings DT Dalvin Tomlinson’s contract voids today. Would mean a $7.5M dead cap penalty applies to the Vikings’ books (this has been factored into most of the projections you see). If the Vikings can work out a deal, they can keep it spread out.”

Peterson’s dead cap penalty is considerably less egregious, a menial $750,000, which is close to negligible. Still, if Adofo-Mensah wanted Peterson back for 2023, the $750,000 penalty could’ve applied after 2023, as the Vikings seek to clear cap space in the next three weeks.

Dec 17, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings cornerback Patrick Peterson (7) celebrates after defeating the Indianapolis Colts 39-36 in overtime at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

Peterson is more likely to return than Tomlinson — let’s get that out in the open. $7.5 million is a noteworthy cap hit, and $750,000 is not. So, if your phone buzzes in the next few weeks detailing a Peterson extension, that won’t be shocking.

However, a Tomlinson reunion is less likely. Monday was “the day” to lock him down intelligently by the numbers. No cigar.

New defensive coordinator Brian Flores could have a vision for 2023 that excludes Tomlinson and [or] Peterson, so perhaps the cap-hit-penalty development is much ado about nothing. Over the weekend, the Vikings welcomed back Khyiris Tonga, who plays Tomlinson’s spot, and he may be on deck for an enhanced role in September.

Tonga was absolutely tremendous in 2022, tabulating a 77.9 Pro Football Focus grade, the 13th-best mark in the NFL among interior defensive linemen. The score was also the eighth-best on the Vikings roster. The BYU alumnus played 11 games in 2022 while starting 2 and registered 28 total tackles, 4 passes defended, 2 QB hits, 2 tackles for loss, and 0.5 sacks. Adofo-Mensah preaches value ad nauseam, and retaining Tonga for $940,000 with that PFF grade (and that abbreviated statline) adheres to the spirit of Adofo-Mensah’s philosophy.

Dec 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah looks on before the game against the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

If Peterson doesn’t return, the Vikings would have to lean into last year’s rookies Andrew Booth and Akayleb Evans, plus a side dish of Cameron Dantzler, a cornerback who saw his role minimized down the stretch of 2022. The club could also re-sign worldbeater corner Duke Shelley, who, like Tonga, impressed out of nowhere. And those are the options without free agency or the NFL draft. The roster is very much a work in progress.

Again, to reiterate, Monday’s deadline represented an appropriate time to extend Tomlinson and Peterson (especially Tomlinson), but it doesn’t mean either is incapable of rejoining the 2023 team. It can still happen. While Adofo-Mensah could still bring one or both back in 2023, the transactions had a smart agreement point on February 20th. It was radio silence instead.

NFL free agency begins in three weeks.

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,’ and The Doors (the band).

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