Vikings and Star Defender Expected to Have Mutual Interest

Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and head coach Kevin O'Connell at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland, after a 20-17 win over the Washington Commanders in Week 9 of the 2022 regular season.

Free agency is right around the corner and the Vikings still don’t know if franchise cornerstones Kirk Cousins and Danielle Hunter will continue their journeys with the organization. Their departure is imminent but can still be prevented if the parties can agree on contract extensions. General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah will have a busy week.

Vikings and Star Defender Expected to Have Mutual Interest

The GM must fill a bunch of holes as many contributors are scheduled to exit and join the free agents. Among those needs is a new defensive tackle as the defensive line undoubtedly lacks talent.

Vikings Expected to Have Mutual Interest in Star Defender
Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports.

Star defenders Justin Madubuike and Chris Jones have signed huge contract extensions and will not be part of the free agents so Dolphins defender Christian Wilkins is the top DT on the market. Wilkins has been linked to Minnesota for quite some time, for good reason as he was the first draft pick the Dolphins made after hiring current Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores as their head coach in 2019.

The connection is picking up some steam on Sunday, a day before free agency opens. Aaron Wilson from KPRC reported on X: “Extremely rich market expected for Dolphins free agent Christian Wilkins. Among the multiple teams expected to have strong and mutual interest in Wilkins, who has 20 1/2 career sacks, including career-high nine last year, Texans and Vikings, per league sources.”

Wilkins’ market will be strong because he is one of the top players available and he is regarded as the best free agent defensive tackle.

New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson (2) tries to elude the pressure of Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Christian Wilkins (94) during the first half of an NFL game at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Dec. 17, 2023. © Jim Rassol / USA TODAY NETWORK.

The defender spent the first five seasons of his career in Miami. In those campaigns, Wilkins played in 81 games, registering 355 total tackles, 43 tackles for loss, and 20.5 sacks. He hasn’t missed a contest since 2020 which will only 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.

© Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Wilkins combines strong run defense and pass-rush ability. Because he is a disruptive player with a broad skill set, there will be a significant demand once the free agency window arrives. He would be the best interior pass-rusher the Vikings have had in a long time as his predecessors Linval Joseph, Dalvin Tomlinson, and Michael Piece, and current starter Harrison Phillips all have their strengths in the rushing game.

The defender could command a salary of $25 million. Madubuike signed for $24.5 million annually, trailing only Aaron Donald whose average annual salary is $31.67 million, the same as Chris Jones’ new deal from the Chiefs. Quinnen Williams ($24 million), Jeffrey Simmons ($23.5 million), Daron Payne, and Dexter Lawrence (both $22.5 million) follow in the compensation rankings.

Flores Flourish
Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Winning in the trenches is crucial in the NFL and the Vikings simply haven’t been good enough up front. Flores would certainly be happy to reunite with his former pick although Adofo-Mensah might be hesitant to offer that kind of contract.

The legal tampering window opens on Monday and the 28-year-old is available if the Vikings want him.

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