Vikings Have a ‘Boom or Bust’ Free Agent

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Six newcomers joined the Minnesota Vikings during free agency, and one player is considered more ‘boom or boost’ than the rest.

Josh Oliver (TE, Ravens), Marcus Davenport (EDGE, Saints), Byron Murphy (CB, Cardinals), Dean Lowry (DT, Packers), Brandon Powell (WR, Rams), and Troy Reeder (LB, Chargers) became Vikings in the last three weeks. And according to Pro Football Focus, pass rusher Marcus Davenport has the highest pinnacle and deepest valley for 2023.

Vikings Have a ‘Boom or Bust’ Free Agent

Indeed, Davenport agreed to terms with Minnesota for one year and $13 million, a contract that allows him and the team to evaluate the relationship in 11 months. If he produces, the 26-year-old can stay awhile, and if not, he can try another NFL home on for size.

Boom or Bust
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PFF’s Brad Spielberger nominated five players leaguewide fitting the ‘boom or bust’ criteria, and Davenport represented the Vikings. He wrote, “Whichever team ended up signing Davenport to a one-year flier was taking a worthwhile gamble on a tremendous talent finally staying healthy after years of dealing with various injuries. Since Davenport entered the league in 2018, his 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.”

The Vikings also currently employ outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith, but he tweeted a goodbye to Minnesota about four weeks ago. It is unclear if Smith will rescind the sayonara, leaving pass-rushing duties for Danielle Hunter and Davenport this September.

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Spielberger touched on the Smith situation, too, relating to Davenport, “While there still has not been any movement on a new contract for Vikings edge defender Za’Darius Smith, who expressed displeasure with the current terms of his deal, it’s probably not a coincidence that Minnesota went out and added arguably the top young edge defender available in free agency. The boom-or-bust nature of this deal will also coincide with what ultimately happens with Smith. If the Vikings do move on from him, Davenport will look to replace 78 quarterback pressures and 10 sacks off the edge from 2022.”

Minnesota is actually quite deep at outside linebacker as of April 3rd — especially if Smith stays — a welcome sight for a defense that ranked 27th in the league last year per DVOA under former defensive coordinator Ed Donatell. Pittsburgh Steelers linebackers coach Brian Flores took over for Donatell in February and will work with these EDGE rushers in 2023:

  • OLB1: Danielle Hunter
  • OLB2: Marcus Davenport
  • OLB3: Za’Darius Smith
  • OLB4: D.J. Wonnum
  • OLB5: Patrick Jones
  • OLB6: Luiji Vilain
  • OLB7: Benton Whitley
  • OLB8: Curtis Weaver
Vikings Latest Free
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The generalized knock on Davenport is a combo of consistency and injury. He was a 1st-Round draft commodity in 2019, and much like Garrett Bradbury for the Vikings, folks expected him to play much better — like all the time. Instead, Davenport has shown flashes of brilliance but hasn’t put it all together.

And that seems to align rather logically with Davenport’s boom or bust designation. Tremaine Edmunds (LB, Bears), Kaden Elliss (LB, Falcons), Andrew Dillard (OT, Titans), and Irv Smith (TE, Bengals) also received the label from PFF.

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