Former Draft Pick Returns to Vikings

James Lynch Solidifying Backup NT Role 
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The offseason program is coming closer, as the OTAs are right around the corner. There will be many new faces when the whole team steps on the field for the first time. General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah drafted seven players and signed 17 UDFAs after overhauling some areas of the team in free agency.

Former Draft Pick Returns to Vikings

Former Draft Pick Returns to Vikings
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Cornerback Joejuan Williams will not be with the team in the upcoming season, barring a surprise comeback. The former second-rounder was released after one season with the team. When the Vikes selected CB Khyree Jackson in the fourth round, that likely filled the need for a tall player at the position. Williams appeared twice in Brian Flores’ defense in 2023.

After opening the roster spot, however, Minnesota re-signed their former fourth-rounder, James Lynch. The defensive lineman has spent his entire career with his former and new team after starring at Baylor. In 2019, he earned Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors. He was also named unanimous first-team All-American after recording 13.5 sacks in his junior season.

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Coming into the NFL, Lynch was considered undersized to be a true nose tackle, and there were doubts that his production would translate to the NFL at the defensive end position. The Vikings still gave him a shot, and he played for them in his first three seasons.

In 37 contests (three starts), Lynch made 53 tackles, two sacks, and four tackles for loss. While he only logged 59 snaps on defense in his debut season, his role grew in years two and three to a total of 581 plays on defense, almost evenly distributed.

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Potentially claiming a starting spot in 2023 or a significant role in the underwhelming defensive line rotation, Lynch tore his ACL in training camp. The Vikings placed him on IR in August, and his season ended before it even began.

Following the season, Lynch became a free agent, as his four-year rookie contract had expired. On Monday, though, the Vikings announced the addition.

Considering the state of the defensive line, if he’s healthy, there’s a good chance he can make the team and possibly have an impact on the field.

The Vikings failed to acquire help in the draft and free agency. Despite employing Harrison Phillips, the line is one of the worst groups in the league. Jonathan Bullard and Jaquelin Roy return from last season, while Dean Lowry and Khyiris Tonga are no longer with the organization.

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Adofo-Mensah aimed for star defender Christian Wilkins in free agency but had to settle for veterans Jerry Tillery and Jonah Williams. A few weeks later, they missed out on the top guys in the draft in favor of drafting J.J. McCarthy and Dallas Turner early and chose Levi Drake Rodriguez in the final round.

As undrafted rookies, Tyler Manoa and Taki Taimani joined the group.

Lynch is still only 25 years old, and there’s a chance Flores can recoup some of his collegiate production.

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