Vikings Free Agency Predictions for the Defense

Tennessee Titans cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting (0) heads to the field as the team gets ready to face the Cleveland Browns in Cleveland, Ohio, Sunday, Sept. 24, 2023. © Andrew Nelles / The Tennessean / USA TODAY NETWORK.

It’s two weeks and counting until NFL free agency begins. The Minnesota Vikings have a lot of work to do on their roster, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. With that in mind, it’s time to make some Vikings free agency predictions for the defense

Vikings Free Agency Predictions for the Defense

The league announced a record increase for the 2024 salary cap, which was above what was expected. It leaves the Vikings sitting just shy of $36 million in cap space. It’s been several years since Minnesota has been in this healthy of a position cap-wise before making any moves. The question is how does GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah play this offseason — one he has already stated himself could define his time in Minnesota.

The Vikings’ competitive rebuild can’t last forever; at some point, they have to lean more toward one than the other. The Vikings have largely rebuilt with a young roster — except in one position. For some, drafting a quarterback is the only sign of a rebuild, and while I don’t agree, the impending quarterback decision in Minnesota absolutely signals the plan for this season.

A returning Kirk Cousins means the Vikings need to be genuine contenders. Otherwise, it’s a waste of everyone’s time. Bringing in a rookie doesn’t mean the Vikings will be bad, but expectations should certainly be tempered.

Either way, what the Vikings give Brian Flores to boost his defense will have much to say about the Vikings’ fortunes in 2024. It’s a unit that needs a serious talent injection. Minnesota can’t rely on some Flores schematic magic to get them by this year. For each position group across the defense, I will make two predictions. A bold prediction, for if the Vikings are looking to make a big splash at the position, and a reserved prediction for players the Vikings can add to the roster without breaking the bank

Interior Defensive Line

Bold Prediction: Christian Wilkins

When Flores started his head coaching career in Miami, Christian Wilkins was his first draft pick — 13th overall in 2019. He hits free agency with Minnesota in desperate need of a difference-maker on the interior of the defensive line. Connecting the dots for Wilkins to Minnesota is an easy conclusion. Always solid against the run, Wilkins took his pass rushing from good to great in 2023. His nine sacks almost doubled his tally from the previous four seasons to 20.5 over his career to date.

Agency Predictions for
Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports.

Wilkins is the difference maker the Vikings need. The snag? It will take the $20+ million per year contract to bring him to Minnesota. The Vikings have the resources to pull such a deal off — should they want to — and that’s the big question. With so many questions that need answering across the roster, where will the Vikings go in free agency? Personally, a dominant IDL is near the top of the list.

Reserved Prediction: Raekwon Davis

Should the Vikings be looking at a cheaper option, it’s back to Miami for another Flores draft pick. Raekwon Davis was taken 56th overall in 2020 by the Dolphins and hasn’t had the same success his teammate has enjoyed. Adofo-Mensah has made a habit of signing failed early-round players on the cheap to try and unlock their potential. It has to be said, without any great success so far, but taking another shot at it here with Davis wouldn’t be a shock.

Outside Linebacker 

The Vikings have left themselves with almost a blank canvas at the outside linebacker, so much so that it warrants an entire article of its own.

Inside Linebacker

Bold Prediction: Frankie Luvu

Ivan Pace Jr. was a revelation last season, but he currently looks lonely on the Vikings depth chart. Jordan Hicks was a good complimentary player to Pace, a tough tackling player who did the dirty work. Suppose the Vikings want that sort of player but one that can also excel in pass-rushing and be good in coverage. The best option on the market is Frankie Luvu, who should command around $10 million and be worth every cent. Luvu and Pace would have the potential to be a formidable tandem in the middle of the field.

Reserved Prediction: Willie Gay

If Minnesota is looking to spend money on other positions and just wants a solid veteran. Willie Gay would fit the bill if they can sign him for around $3 million. At that price, bringing back Hicks as well to give the Vikings depth at the position is an option.

Cornerback

Bold Prediction: L’Jarius Sneed

It appears the Chiefs will put the franchise tag on L’Jarius Sneed but would be willing to facilitate a trade. That muddies the water, but it doesn’t come much better than Sneed in terms of available players that can improve the Vikings. Along with his CB partner Trent McDuffie, Sneed was a significant factor in Kansas City once again being crowned Super Bowl champions. 

Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports.

Reserved Prediction: Sean Murphy-Bunting

The Vikings were linked to Sean Murphy-Bunting last offseason. He signed a 1-year, $3.5 million deal with the Tennessee Titans. He should be available at that price again and would add depth to the Vikings roster with a solid starting caller player with inside/outside flexibility.

Safety

Bold Prediction: Antoine Winfield Jr

How about righting the wrong of the 2020 draft? Vikings fans wanted the son of a former player and star of the state college team to be a Viking. The decision-makers decided otherwise, and the tragic circumstances involving Jeff Gladney couldn’t have been foreseen. Passing on Winfield — now a First-Team All-Pro following the 2023 season — is still a central talking point among the fanbase. Moving on from Harrison, Smith can pay for bringing in Winfield and give the Vikings a very good and, importantly, young safety group that fits with how they build their roster.

Target in Free
Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports.

Reserved Prediction: Brandon Jones

The snag with Winfield is there’s every chance Tampa Bay will stick the franchise tag on him. That leaves Minnesota looking for an alternative, which sees us heading back to Miami for another former player of the Vikings DC. Brandon Jones was a third-round pick by the Dolphins back in 2020 and enjoyed his best season to date last time out. He also provides a good pass-rush option from safety, something the Vikings will need to replace if/when Smith’s time in Minnesota ends.


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