Vikings Were Oh-So-Close on Top Free Agent

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Frustrated by the Minnesota Vikings not, alas, securing a big-name free-agent defensive tackle once and for all?

Vikings Were Oh-So-Close on Top Free Agent

Well, they tried.

Vikings Free Agent Fits
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Heading into free agency, most Vikings fans labeled defensive tackle as an honest-to-goodness need on the depth chart after years of employing men like Shamar Stephen, Armon Watts, and Jonathan Bullard next to the nose tackle. Well, in 2024, a litany of high-profile DTs were available on the NFL’s marketplace, but Minnesota ended up with low-to-mid-tier additions in Jerry Tillery and Jonah Williams.

But the club reportedly believed it was in a good spot — oh so close — in the Christian Wilkins sweepstakes. Wilkins ultimately landed in Las Vegas with the Raiders on a four-year, $110 million deal, a mammoth agreement that leveled the market.

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KSTP’s Darren Wolfson explained on SKOR North’s Mackey and Judd Show this week, “O’Connell alluded to this on Monday, just how much work, how much the Vikings were in on some of these defensive tackles, namely Christian Wilkins. Like, what the Raiders gave Wilkins, I think surprised the Vikings. Those 48 hours leading into the official start of free agency, like I’m telling you, the Vikings were feeling very very good about their chances of landing Christian Wilkins.”

Curiously without a Pro Bowl or All-Pro through five seasons, here’s Wilkins’ Pro Football Focus resume:

  • 2023: 74.9
  • 2022: 85.1
  • 2021: 83.3
  • 2020: 68.9
  • 2019: 64.4

The man would’ve been a magnificent addition to the Vikings’ defensive trenches, but after the Raiders took home the Wilkins prize, Minnesota added the aforementioned Tillery and Williams while focusing on the edges of the defensive line, adding Jonathan Greenard (Houston Texans) and Andrew Van Ginkel (Miami Dolphins).

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Wolfson also mentioned that the Vikings could use the draft for an impact DT, though it could be tricky if the franchise is trading multiple picks for a quarterback of the future: “They like a lot of these interior defensive linemen too in this draft class. I don’t know how you maneuver for some of the top guys, but they certainly are doing a lot of homework on interior defensive linemen.”

Minnesota’s defense improved markedly from 2022 to 2023. It ranked 24th per DVOA under Ed Donatell in 2022 and climbed to 11th per the same metric with Brian Flores in charge last year. Adding Wilkins could’ve helped that rise further in Kevin O’Connell’s third act. Vikings fans believed Wilkins to Minnesota was possible because Flores was the Dolphins head coach when Wilkins was drafted five years ago.

NFL: Carolina Panthers at Miami Dolphins
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Defensive tackles like Byron Murphy II (Texas), Johnny Newton (Illinois), and T’Vondre Sweat (Texas) headline the upcoming draft class at the position.

If the Vikings “do nothing” more at DT, this defensive line would take the field in September, or some similar iteration:

OLB: Jonathan Greenard
NT: Harrison Phillips
DT: Jerry Tillery
DE: Jonathan Bullard
OLB: Andrew Van Ginkel

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