Wipe Another Would-Be Vikings Free Agency Target off the Board

Jessica Rapfogel-USA TODAY Sports.

Minnesota Vikings free agency will go full tilt next week, but as a starter kit, several top-tier candidates won’t even see the light of day on the open market.

Wipe Another Would-Be Vikings Free Agency Target off the Board

One of the league’s most coveted free-agents-to-be was franchise tagged on Tuesday, as the Baltimore Ravens ensured All-Pro defensive tackle Justin Madubuike wouldn’t exit stage left.

Vikings Free Agency
Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports.

Minutes before the Madubuike tag, Tampa Bay Buccanneers safety Antoine Winfield Jr. received the same franchise tag treatment, meaning he won’t join the Vikings or any non-Buccaneers club, either. Anti-climactic, indeed.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweeted about Madubuike, “Ravens placed their franchise tag on DT Justin Madubuike. Madubuike had 13 sacks this past season, the most by a Ravens player in nine years. He also tied an NFL record by recording at least a half-sack in 11 consecutive games.”

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

A second-team All-Pro and Pro Bowler in 2023, both first-time distinctions, Madubuike had a breakout season, his fourth as a pro. He instantly climbed the defensive tackle pecking order, and if it weren’t for Aaron Donald and his Hall of Fame reputation, Madubuiki might already top the list.

In that regard, it made all the sense in the world for Baltimore to apply the franchise tag. The man is a game-changer. Game-wrecker, even. Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta told NFL Network about the Madubuike tag, “We were unable to agree on a contract extension with Justin before the deadline and will use the franchise tag. Justin is a great player and person, and we will continue to negotiate a long-term deal with him.”

John Harbaugh
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Ergo, the only way the 26-year-old will exit Baltimore is if extension talks fundamentally break down and DeCosta trades Madubuikie, a scenario that seems extremely unlikely. The Ravens reached the AFC Championship last season, and before a total flop at home to the Kansas City Chiefs in that bout, most considered Baltimore a true-blue frontrunner to win Super Bowl LVIII. Super Bowl contenders tend not to let premiere players slip out the backdoor, and Madubuike is no exception.

In January, we published splashy predictions for the Vikings’ impending free agency signings, and VT’s Kyle Joudry tabbed — you guessed it — Madubuike. Joudry wrote, “If there’s no franchise tag, then it’s Justin Madubuike. The Baltimore defensive tackle is coming off a season where he picked up 13 sacks and 33 QB hits (for reference, Danielle Hunter was at 16.5 sacks and 22 QB hits). The pass-rushing DT just turned 26 on November 17th and was named a second-team All-Pro following the season. Back up the Brinks truck and sign the man.”

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Arizona Cardinals
Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Well, for better or worse, Madubuike indeed received the tag and can be crossed off the free-agent list for 31 teams.

If the Vikings prefer to upgrade the defensive tackle position with non-Madubuike options, these free agents, among others, should be available next week:

  • Maurice Hurst
  • DaQuon Jones
  • Sheldon Rankins
  • DJ Reader
  • Grover Stewart
  • Christian Wilkins
  • Leonard Williams

Minnesota has roughly $36 million to spend in free agency.

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).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by OverTheCap.com.