Vikings Lose Another Key Defender

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Change has been on the menu for the Minnesota Vikings this offseason — the last three, in fact — and another defender has signed elsewhere.

Vikings Lose Another Key Defender

D.J. Wonnum joined the Carolina Panthers on Thursday, the latest exit after outside linebacker Danielle Hunter left Tuesday for the Houston Texans, and inside linebacker Jordan Hicks joined the Cleveland Browns on Monday.

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ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler tweeted, “Source: Pass rusher D.J. Wonnum plans to sign with the Panthers on a two-year deal. Wonnum heads to NFC South after 8.0 sacks in 15 games last year.”

Many Vikings believed Wonnum might return following his best NFL season to date, but the Panthers had other plans. Wonnum is recovering from a torn quad, and when he’s all healed up, he’ll join Bryce Young and friends in the NFC South.

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Quarterback Kirk Cousins also joined the NFC South this week, signing with the Atlanta Falcons for four years and $180 million.

Wonnum, 26, will now become a part of this EDGE room in Carolina, which lost Brian Burns via trade to the New York Giants earlier this week:

  • D.J. Johnson
  • D.J. Wonnum
  • Amare Barno
  • Eku Leota
  • Luiji Vilain
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Carolina will have to use the 2024 NFL Draft or the remaining waves of free agency to bolster its pass rush because, on paper, that’s one of the worst EDGE groups in the sport. But that’s the price of trading Burns to New York, temporary skimpiness.

Before 2023, Wonnum was known as a situational pass rusher who oddly seemed to terrorize the Chicago Bears — and that team only. There was no explanation for it, but it was true. Now, however, Wonnum browbeats all quarterbacks, not just those playing at Soldier Field.

Too, Wonnum became adept at stopping the run, another trait not entirely evident from 2020 to 2022. He actually flipped his skillsets, according to Pro Football Focus, tallying a 68.6 run-stopping grade in 2023, with a 56.8 pass-rushing mark. We shall see if that continues in Carolina.

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Minnesota already has Wonnum’s replacement under contract. The club signed Jonathan Greenard of the Houston Texans on Monday, along with Miami Dolphins pass rusher Andrew Van Ginkel. Those men replace Hunter and Wonnum, and the Vikings will likely sign more EDGE depth in the coming days and weeks. The purple team also has nine draft picks in April, and one or a couple will likely be used on EDGE defenders.

Wonnum has banked 23 sacks in 62 career games, including 31 starts. He scored a memorable touchdown against the Panthers last October that helped salvage the Vikings season.

Per Ian Rapoport, the deal is for two years and $14.5 million.

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).

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