Vikings Run It Back with Another Starter

Vikings Designate Defensive Starter for Return
Sep 25, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Detroit Lions running back D'Andre Swift (32) is tackled by Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jonathan Bullard. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

First, it was Khyiris Tonga, a would-be free agent who rejoined the Vikings in February for a 2023 sequel.

On Tuesday, the Minnesota Vikings added a second free-agent defender back to the 2023 roster, defensive tackle Jonathan Bullard.

Vikings Run It Back with Another Starter

Bullard, 29, played 12 games for Minnesota in 2022 and started seven. ESPN’s Mike Garafolo tweeted, “The Vikings have agreed to terms to re-sign DE Jonathan Bullard, source says. Back in Minnesota after appearing in 12 games last season.”

Vikings Run It Back
Oct 2, 2022; London, United Kingdom; Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jonathan Bullard (93) during the NFL International Series game at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter van den Berg-USA TODAY Sports.

The Bullard reunion is a moderate surprise, as the franchise signed Dean Lowry from the Green Bay Packers last week. Lowry has played in 111 games, starting 80, while tabulating 252 total tackles, 34 QB hits, 23 tackles for loss, 16 passes defended, 15.5 sacks, and 1 forced fumble. He took a few seasons to “get going” in Wisconsin, but by 2019, he was a full-time starting defensive tackle. And, for a minute, Lowry felt like the “Bullard replacement,” but now the two may be headed toward a summer camp battle.

Bullard missed about a month of the 2022 regular season due to a bicep injury, and James Lynch and the aforementioned Tonga were utilized as replacements. General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah added Bullard to the Vikings roster last June, and at the time, he seemed like just “a guy” who could go either way in making the 53-man roster. But Bullard won the hearts of Minnesota’s coaching staff and ultimately played 71% of all Vikings games last year.

Nov 13, 2022; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Buffalo Bills running back Devin Singletary (26) runs the ball against Minnesota Vikings defensive lineman Harrison Phillips (97) and defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard (93) during the first half at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports.

The Vikings marked Bullard’s fifth team in seven seasons, previously working for the Atlanta Falcons (2021), Seattle Seahawks (2020), Arizona Cardinals (2019), and Bears (2016-2018). Drafted in the 3rd Round of the 2016 NFL Draft, Bullard has registered 136 total tackles, 18 tackles for loss, 16 quarterback hits, and 3.5 sacks in 82 career games.

Retaining Bullard also lessens the likelihood of the Vikings signing an open-market free agent at defensive tackle. Adofo-Mensah could still shoot for the stars and draft a DT like Bryan Bresee (Clemson) or Calijah Kancey (Pittsburgh) early in the 2023 NFL Draft, but the depth otherwise is fully stocked. These are the defensive tackles in the Vikings roster orbit as of the Bullard re-signing:

  • Harrison Phillips
  • Dean Lowry
  • Khyiris Tonga
  • Jonathan Bullard
  • James Lynch
  • Ross Blacklock
  • Esezi Otomewo
  • Sheldon Day
  • T.J. Smith

They’ve got plenty.

Nov 20, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jonathan Bullard (93) celebrates during the second quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports.

Bullard fired up a blasé Pro Football Focus grade last year, a 56.5. His run defense fetched a 62.9 score and pass rush a 50.2.

The financial terms of Bullard’s deal were not immediately available.

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