Vikings Fill DL Opening with an Old Friend

Vikings Designate Defensive Starter for Return
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The Minnesota Vikings really needed defensive tackles heading into free agency week, especially after releasing Dean Lowry on Tuesday.

Vikings Fill DL Opening with an Old Friend

Well, whether he returns to a starter’s role or fortifies depth, defensive tackle Jonathan Bullard is back for a third season, re-signed Wednesday on a one-year deal.

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The Athletic’s Alec Lewis tweeted, “The Vikings have agreed to terms on a one-year deal with DL Jonathan Bullard, a source says. Played alongside Harrison Phillips last year on the defensive line, was stout against the run.”

For now, Bullard would be listed as a starter on the team’s depth chart because he’s close to all that’s available after Harrison Phillips and last year’s rookie Jaquelin Roy. Many believed Minnesota would make a splashier move at defensive tackle with a player like Arik Armstead, D.J. Reader, or Sheldon Rankins, but it remains to be seen if that’s on the way.

Flores Flourish
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Bullard, 30, played all 17 games for Minnesota in 2023 and started 14. He played 12 in 2022, his first year with the Vikings, and started 12. The purple team really enjoys the man. The Vikings mark Bullard’s fifth team in eight seasons, previously working for the Atlanta Falcons (2021), Seattle Seahawks (2020), Arizona Cardinals (2019), and Bears (2016-2018). Drafted in the 3rd Round of the 2016 NFL Draft, Bullard has registered 180 total tackles, 21 tackles for loss, 18 quarterback hits, and 5.5 sacks in 99 career games.

Retaining Bullard doesn’t necessarily dampen the likelihood of the Vikings signing an open-market free agent at defensive tackle. General manager Adofo-Mensah could still shoot for the stars and sign Armstead, Reader, or Rankins — or choose one somewhat early in the 2024 NFL Draft. These are the defensive tackles in the Vikings’ roster orbit as of the Bullard re-signing:

  • Harrison Phillips
  • Jacquelin Roy
  • Jonathan Bullard

Last year around this time on the calendar, Minnesota had nine defensive tackles under contract. Therefore, more are on the way.

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Bullard fired up a blasé Pro Football Focus grade last year, a 46.3. His run defense fetched a 53.7 score and pass rush a 46.9.

Minnesota’s defense ranked 24th per DVOA in 2022 under Ed Donatell and improved mightily in 2023 under Brian Flores — to the tune of 11th-best in the NFL. With new free-agent defenders Jonathan Greenard, Andrew Van Ginkel, and Blake Cashman, along with Bullard’s return to the depth chart and more help on the way, Flores could nudge the Vikings’ defense into the Top 10. That’s the theory, anyway.

Listed as Contestant
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Minnesota showcased the NFL’s worst interior pass-rush win rate in 2023.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by