Vikings Evidently Have a “Sleeper” Free Agent

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The Minnesota Vikings have over 25 free agents scheduled to hit the open market in three weeks, a massive number emblematic of the team’s “competitive rebuild” phase.

Vikings Evidently Have a “Sleeper” Free Agent

Of course, half or more will return to the club in 2024, but the number is still considerable.

Vikings Evidently Have
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Among those names is outside linebacker D.J. Wonnum, and he’s evidently a “sleeper” free agent, according to Pro Football Network. PFN’s Adam Caplan sized up the free-agent market this week, and when he arrived at the Vikings, he assigned the sleeper label to Wonnum.

“Defensively, keep an eye on D.J. Wonnum, who a pro personnel source said should be considered a top ‘sleeper’ for free agency. Wonnum, who has posted 23 sacks in his four seasons of play, played in a career-high 83% of the team’s defensive snaps last season and has excellent length and size as an edge rusher (6-5, 260, 34 1/8-arm),” Caplan explained.

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Wonnum played 15 games for the 2023 Vikings, starting 14, before a gruesome quad injury ended his season versus the Detroit Lions. The timing was horrid, as Wonnum was on tap to hit free agency for the first time in his career. Too, he had played quite well as a starting EDGE defender, filling in admirably for Marcus Davenport, who suffered a high ankle sprain in October and wholly vanished thereafter.

Caplan added about Wonnum, “Wonnum has only been a full-time starter in two of those seasons (2021, 2023) and has experience playing with his hand in the dirt earlier in his career under former head coach Mike Zimmer’s 4-3 scheme and as a stand-up pass rusher over the past two years.”

Flores Flourish
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Wonnum notably authored this season-saving play in 2023, recovering a fumble at the Carolina Panthers and rumbling for a touchdown. Minnesota held a 0-3 record at the time, and his heroism temporarily helped make the season relevant.

Overall, the 26-year-old banked 62 tackles, 15 QB hits, 8 sacks, 7 tackles for loss, 6 passes defended, and the aforementioned touchdown in 15 games last season. After the Davenport injury, Wonnum was truly a season-saver.

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Whether he’s a “sleeper,’ however, is a bit debatable. Wonnum’s next team — the Vikings or a different squad — will probably tread gingerly via his next contract, wanting to ensure his quad recovery is progressing well.

The Vikings will likely explore a second contract for Wonnum, one that won’t be terribly expensive and perhaps a “prove it” arrangement because of the season-ending injury.

Wonnum banked a decent 62.3 Pro Football Focus grade in 2023, his fourth season as a pro.

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,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

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