Top Free Agent Target Will Be Available for Vikings

Flores Flourish
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General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah will enter the third season of his tenure with the Vikings, and it could be his most important one. With quarterback Kirk Cousins possibly departing via free agency, his actions in the next two months will impact the organization for years. He must decide how he wants to handle the veteran’s situation.

Top Free Agent Target Will Be Available for Vikings

top free
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In addition, there are some holes to fill on defense as defensive coordinator Brian Flores needs a pair of pass-rushers with Danielle Hunter, Marcus Davenport, and D.J. Wonnum set to enter free agency. Also on his wishlist should be a new defensive tackle to pair with Harrison Phillips, someone must replace Jordan Hicks if he isn’t re-signed, and an upgrade at the CB spots could change the defense.

To fill those spots, the Vikings have more cap space than they’ve had in quite some time, $34 million according to Over the Cap, and a bunch of draft picks, primarily the 11th and 42nd overall picks. It’s on Adofo-Mensah to figure out how to spend those resources. That’s why all of the previously mentioned needs are interconnected.

Re-signing Cousins or Hunter could actually lower their respective cap hits if the contract is structured right, while drafting a quarterback would cost at least one, possibly both, of those valuable picks if he wants to trade.

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One guy the Vikings should target without any shadow of a doubt is defensive tackle Christian Wilkins, who is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent after spending the first five seasons of his career in Miami. There is quite the fun connection to Flores, as Wilkins was his first draft pick after being hired as Dolphins’ head coach in 2019.

In the last few weeks, it was expected that the former first-rounder would either sign a contract extension or draw the franchise tag, but a tweet on Sunday from ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler changed that: “Development out of Indy: Several league sources expect Dolphins’ Christian Wilkins to avoid franchise tag. Miami source says keeping options open, but teams bracing for star DT to hit free agency.”

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If that is indeed the case, the Vikings should inquire about him. Through five seasons in Miami, Wilkins played in 81 games, registering 355 total tackles, 43 tackles for loss, and 20.5 sacks. Not missing a single game in three straight years is also noteworthy and will boost his value.

The defensive tackle is just coming off his most productive season, in which he collected nine sacks. That is interesting for Minnesota, as the Vikings have by far the worst interior pass rush in the league.

Having someone who is not just a decent run defender but also a threat in the passing game is something the Vikings haven’t had in a long time. The current group and recent players Dalvin Tomlinson, Michael Pierce, and Linval Joseph all had their strengths in the running game.

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Wilkins is expected to attract a lot of teams in free agency, but having his former coach on the staff could help the Vikings recruit the defender. He praised Flores after he was surprisingly dismissed after the 2021 season:

The thing he preached the most, the thing that is going to stick with me in my head for forever is the mindset of ‘one day at a time, one play at a time.’ That is obviously something he was big on. That’s always something I’m going to remember, just that mindset that he instilled into all of us, instilled into me for my three years working with him which was an honor.

Like I said, I think he’s a great coach and a great man and a great person. Just things like that and earning respect; you’re going to have to earn it every day. It’s a week-by-week thing in this league and he just taught me a lot, really. As a coach, he could really coach football well and like I said, I got a lot of respect for him.

Christian Wilkins about Brian Flores
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Pro Football Focus graded Wilkins as the 23rd-best of 131 eligible defensive linemen in the NFL. He ranked 9th in 2022 and 6th in Flores’ final season, 2021.

In recent years, the value of defensive tackles has increased. Just last offseason, free agents Tomlinson and Javin Hargrave signed expensive contracts. He may command an annual salary of at least $20 million.

Winning in the trenches is vital in the NFL, and it is time to invest in one of the most influential spots on the field. Wilkins is 28 years old, and his skill set is just what the Vikings need.

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