Former Vikings Defender Stays with the Rivals

Eric Wilson
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports.

In the 2020 season, the Vikings had a big group of injured players, leading to a disastrous defensive output, despite still employing defensive mastermind Mike Zimmer. Additionally, many longtime staples of the defense left in free agency, including edge rusher Everson Griffen, defensive tackle Linval Joseph and the trio of cornerbacks Xavier Rhodes, Mackensie Alexander, and Trae Waynes.

Danielle Hunter, free agent signing Michael Pierce, and Anthony Barr played a combined two games in that season. All that led to significant opportunities for some backups like Armon Watts and Ifeadi Odenigbo and for rookies. D.J. Wonnum, Cameron Dantzler, and Jeff Gladney all were forced to play prominent roles.

Former Vikings Defender Stays with the Rivals

Former Vikings Defender Stays With the Rivals
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Another depth piece who got a lot of run in 2020 was linebacker Eric Wilson. He re-signed with the Green Bay Packers for another season.

Wilson was undrafted in 2017, coming out of Cincinnati and signed with the Vikings. After some intriguing preseason showings, the Vikings kept him on the 53-man roster. Not only that, but he also played in all 16 games as a key special teams contributor. Wilson didn’t play on defense but had 306 special team plays.

In 2018, Wilson started four games at linebacker, once again playing all 16 contests, which added up to more than 600 snaps in that season. The 2019 campaign was similar, playing 16 games again, starting six, and playing 657 snaps on defense and special teams combined. His biggest task, however, came one year later. Anthony Barr tore his pectoral muscle in Week 2, and Wilson had to step up, starting in a total of 15 games in Mike Zimmer’s defensive unit.

Minnesota Vikings linebacker Eric Wilson (50) celebrates with teammate Anthony Harris (41) after intercepting a pass during the second half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

In four seasons with the Vikings, Wilson played in all 64 games and was in the starting lineup in 25. The linebacker recorded 3 interceptions, forced 2 fumbles, recorded 8 sacks, and 234 combined tackles with the purple team. Especially his counting stats in 2020 were so good that many claimed that the Vikings should keep him as a starter, but he never returned.

Following that season, he left the Vikings in free agency and signed with the Philadelphia Eagles. He immediately earned a starting job next to T.J. Edwards but lost that job quickly and was released after Week 8. The Texans claimed him off waivers.

Wm. Glasheen/Appleton Post-Crescent-USA TODAY NETWORK

In the 2022 offseason, Wilson signed with the Saints but failed to make the team and was a practice squad player until the Packers signed him in October to a banged-up linebacker group, and he became a crucial special teams player. He appeared on 35 defensive snaps and 197 special team plays, where he blocked a punt against the Jets in a Week 6 loss.

Wilson re-signed with the Packers as a backup linebacker. Many were mad when the Vikings let him walk out of the building in 2021, but a couple of years and four teams later, it became obvious that he was not worth signing to a long-term deal.

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