Help for Vikings Defensive Line Is on the Way

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota’s general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah didn’t hesitate once free agency opened and immediately hired a trio of talented defenders to improve the defense. Jonathan Greenard and Andrew Van Ginkel will form the new duo of pass-rushers while linebacker Blake Cashman is a versatile inside linebacker who is a perfect fit in Brian Flores’ defense.

Help for Vikings Defensive Line Is on the Way

Help for Vikings Defensive Line Is on the Way
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

One hole remained: the defense line was a disaster. Other than Harrison Phillips, the Vikings had virtually no talent and limited depth. Jonathan Bullard was re-signed after two seasons of reliable depth play and last year’s fifth-rounder Jaquelin Roy is still on the team and hopes to contribute more in his sophomore campaign. Dean Lowry, a 2023 signing, has been released.

NFL offseason rosters usually carry roughly ten interior linemen, the Vikings only had three. But now. another player will join the group. Veteran defensive tackle Jerry Tillery is Adofo-Mensah’s latest addition.

Tom Pelissero on X: “The Vikings are signing DT Jerry Tillery to a one-year deal worth up to $3.75 million, per source. A new home for the former first-round pick.”

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The former 28th overall pick out of Notre Dame hasn’t lived up to the pre-draft expectations. He started his career with the Los Angeles Chargers and played 54 games (29 starts) before he was released during his fourth season. The defender logged 10.5 sacks and 98 tackles in 2,150 defensive snaps.

Entering the waiver wire, Tillery couldn’t choose his next team and was assigned to the Raiders who put a waiver claim in for the ex-first-rounder but he re-signed in 2023 for a second season in Las Vegas. In 24 games with the Raiders, Tillery produced two sacks and 41 tackles.

His PFF resume shows progress but still leaves room for improvement:

  • 2019: 35.5 (116/116 DTs)
  • 2020: 43.9 (108/110 DTs)
  • 2021: 46.3 (94/108 DTs)
  • 2022: 49.8 (100/128 DTs)
  • 2023: 67.7 (40/130 DTs)
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Tillery is a pass-rush specialist, he jogs onto the field on third downs and gets after the quarterback. In terms of run-stopping, he leaves a lot to be desired. It should be noted, though, that the Vikings lacked that type of profile in last year’s rotation as nobody could generate pressure from the inside. All employed players had their strengths in the running game.

The 27-year-old tabulated 29 quarterback pressures and 23 QB hurries last season. 29 pressures would’ve ranked fourth in Minnesota’s 2023 defense, the hurries would’ve ranked him second.

Danielle Hunter
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A bonus is that the signing doesn’t count against the complex compensatory formula because he was released. The Vikings are on pace to secure a pair of third-round picks as compensation for the exits of Danielle Hunter and Kirk Cousins and he doesn’t threaten that at all.

Minnesota needs more interior pass-rush than last season and Tillery helps in that area. The signing of other defensive tackles is likely because the Vikings need bodies. If they target one of the shiny toys on the market like Arik Armstead or D.J. Reader remains to be seen. Adofo-Mensah could also look at the draft to fill that hole.

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