Vikings Make Big Splash Signing

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The first signing of the Minnesota Vikings’ free agency class was surprising and underwhelming. Vikings’ GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah added tight end, Josh Oliver, to the team, primarily a blocking tight end.

Not only the addition was a head-scratcher, especially the big price tag left many confused. The Vikings added a tight end with 26 catches in four seasons for an annual salary of $7 million. However, the second move was a big one.

Vikings Make Big Splash Signing

Vikings Make Big Splash Signing
Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

NFL insider Ian Rapoport broke the news of the big signing on Monday, at 8:20 pm CT on Twitter: “The Vikings are signing pass-rusher Marcus Davenport, sources tell me, Mike Garafolo, and Tom Pelissero. He gets a 1-year deal worth $13M. Impressive.”

Impressive, indeed. The Vikings, a team that is cap-strapped, agreed to a deal with a player for a lot of money. Davenport was a 2018 first-round selection of the New Orleans Saints. He was the 14th overall pick, the Saints traded up with the Packers to get him, and gave up a pair of first-rounders for the UTSA edge rusher.

In five years with the Saints, Davenport recorded 21.5 sacks, 142 combined tackles, 25 tackles for loss, and 60 quarterback hits. He did not live up to his expectations on the stat sheet but his talent hit top-notch. Davenport is one of those players who are much better than their stats indicate.

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PFF raved about the defender in their free agency rankings, in which he ranked right outside of the top 20 of all available players, at 21:

“Injuries once again hampered Davenport’s season, but he’s a remarkably effective pass rusher off the edge when healthy, and his talent alone could be worth the gamble in free agency – especially given the relative lack of edge rushers available. Since he entered the league in 2018, Davenport’s 17.8% pass-rush win rate and 13.9% pressure percentage are both top-20 marks among edge defenders, and he’s also earned a very respectable 82.1 run-defense grade for his career, which ranks 16th over the span.

Davenport has five straight campaigns grading above 70.0. The issue is that he’s yet to log 600 snaps in a single season. At the end of the day, top-20 edge defenders against the pass and run don’t reach free agency often, and while his injury list is long, it doesn’t include any devastating ligament tears.”

Injuries have been a big problem for Davenport, who played 63 games in five seasons, without playing a single full campaign. Coming into the league, Davenport was considered a physical freak. At the combine, where he was measured at 6’5″ and 264 pounds and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.58 seconds with elite 10-yard and 20-yard splits.

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His arrival could mean that the Vikings intend to move on from 2022 signing Za’Darius Smith who reportedly wants the Vikings to release him after an excellent campaign in 2022. If that is the case, the Vikings have his replacement on the team. If they can keep both and pair them with Danielle Hunter, opponents are in trouble. Davenport rushed primarily from the right side, while Hunter is rushing from the left side ever since coming into the league.

Signing Davenport involves some risk because of his injury history but it can pay off big time just like last year’s addition of Smith. Defensive coordinator Brian Flores will love his first addition to the defense.

The biggest need of the Vikings is still at the cornerback position. Expect the purple team to address that in the next few days.

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