When he was healthy enough to be on the field last season, Minnesota Vikings’ defensive tackle Linval Joseph was a force on the defensive interior. After a down first year with the purple, he really turned things around in his second season, even when he was hobbled with a foot issue.
Joseph is still under contract with the Vikings for three more seasons, and according to the folks at Pro Football Focus, he has one of the most team-friendly contracts of any interior defender in the league. The average cap hit for the remaining three years of his contract is a relatively paltry $6.68 million.
While there were hints that the Vikings’ defense was in the process of becoming a top-tier unit in the first season under Mike Zimmer, the unit did not really take off until Linval Joseph emerged as not only one of the top interior defenders in the league, but one of the best defensive players in the league . After grading positively in every season but his rookie year, Joseph produced six games last season with cumulative grades of +3.0 or above (remember that 0.0 is considered average on PFF’s cumulative scale), managing 30 stops and 26 pressures in the process. He almost single-handedly shut down Todd Gurley and the Rams in their Week 9 matchup, with an impressively-positive grade for the game, tallying a sack and seven stops.
Joseph finished last season with the third-highest grade (94.4) among interior defenders (behind only Aaron Donald and J.J. Watt), despite being just the 12th-highest-paid 4-3 defensive tackle. With three years left on this modest deal, the Vikings have the ability to allocate resources towards other areas of their defense, further fortifying a unit that has the potential to be one of the league’s best. If Joseph can remain healthy (he missed four games last season with a foot injury), this will continue to be one of the most team-friendly contracts in the league for the foreseeable future.
The Vikings are going to have some significant contracts coming up over the course of the next couple of seasons. Joseph’s running mate at defensive tackle, Sharrif Floyd, is potentially playing for a long-term deal this season, as is cornerback Xavier Rhodes. Soon it will also be time to talk about contract extensions for linebacker Anthony Barr and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. That makes it that much more significant for the Vikings that they have one of the centerpieces of their defense locked up for the foreseeable future at a relatively low price.
Defensive tackle is one of those positions where players can be pretty productive for a long time, so if Joseph continues to "eat" over the next few seasons, he could very well put himself in line for one more big payday before he hangs it up. Hopefully, he’ll play well enough to earn that payday as a member of the Vikings.