Vikings Miss Out on One of Free Agency’s Top Prizes

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

It is a fascinating offseason for the Minnesota Vikings and their fans. The departure of quarterback Kirk Cousins kicks off a new era of Vikings football, and the next passer will arrive in April’s draft. The trade on Friday was an indication of Minnesota’s aggressiveness in securing Cousins’ successor.

Vikings Miss Out on One of Free Agency’s Top Prizes

Vikings Miss Out on Top Prize in Free Agency
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah added some talent to a defense that desperately needed that infusion. Jonathan Greenard and Andrew Van Ginkel replace the pass-rush trio of Danielle Hunter, D.J. Wonnum, and Marcus Davenport. They are a downgrade from Hunter, but as a duo, they are perhaps better than every combination the Vikings played in 2023. Blake Cashman fills the void at inside linebacker and offers a remarkable scheme fit because of his versatile skill set.

One spot Adofo-Mensah couldn’t fill with talent is the defensive line. Khyiris Tonga and Dean Lowry are no longer with the organization. Veteran Jerry Tillery arrived. Harrison Phillips, Jaquelin Roy, and Jonathan Bullard return for another season.

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The GM failed to sign one of the highly-touted defenders who entered the open market. Many fans contemplated the addition of Christian Wilkins, a former Dolphins first-rounder and the first one of Vikings coordinator Brian Flores as a Dolphins head coach. However, he was ultimately too expensive, signing in Las Vegas for $27.5 million per year. He is a complete defensive tackle with strengths in running and passing defense.

Backup plan Arik Armstead heads to Jacksonville, generating a three-year $51 million contract. His pass-rushing skills would’ve been a tremendous upgrade, but he would not wear a purple jersey. Former Bengals defender D.J. Reader will face the Vikings twice as a Detroit Lions player, signing a two-year, $27.75 million contract.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports.

Leonard Williams will stay in Seattle after agreeing to a three-year $64.5 million contract, and Grover Stewart will continue his stint in Indianapolis (three years, $39 million).

All-Pro talents Chris Jones (Chiefs) and Justin Madubuike (Ravens) didn’t even enter the free agency pool after agreeing to contract extensions with their old franchises.

It is understandable why the Vikings didn’t pay that much money for the defenders. Wilkins is, besides Jones, the highest-paid defensive tackle in the league; the other listed players are either over or close to 30 and have had injury struggles in recent years.

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports.

However, the defensive line needs some more talent. Perhaps the draft could be the way to find a reinforcement, although that is a moot point if Adofo-Mensah sends his only two picks in the top three rounds away to draft a quarterback.

Though not elite by any means, Tillery can provide some needed pass-rush. However, in his six seasons in the league, he has been quite bad in the running game. He logged 23 QB hurries in 2023 when he was with the Raiders, which would’ve been second in Minnesota behind only star pass-rusher Hunter.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

Employing four defensive linemen isn’t enough. In addition to the lack of talent, signing a few more players is mandatory. For now, Phillips is once again the team’s top interior lineman, supported by Bullard primarily on running downs and Tillery in the passing game, with Roy trying to carve out a more prominent role in his sophomore campaign.

Besides quarterback, the defensive tackle position remains at the top of Adofo-Mensah’s offseason needs.

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