With the Vikings’ announcing on Monday that they are hiring Brian Flores to be their new defensive coordinator, it’s time to discuss what the Minnesota Vikings’ top needs are on the defensive side of the ball. The Vikings don’t have a ton of free agents on defense, but there’s a lot of speculation that some of the veteran defenders will be traded or cut. Last week, I looked at the offense and ranked the position groups from most to least important for the Vikings to address through the draft and free agency. Today, I’ll assess the defensive position groups, and I’ll also include some intriguing free agent or draft options that the team could go after to fill their needs.
Kendricks and Hicks both had pretty abysmal seasons, and it’s fair to think that they both have a chance of being traded or released this offseason. There’s also a chance one or both are kept on and ideally get restructured contracts, so it really remains up in the air what will happen with this position. Brian Asamoah sits behind them on the depth chart, and he needs to start or at least contribute in a very meaningful way next season.
Draft Targets - Jack Campbell, DeMarvion Overshown
Interesting Free Agents - Drue Tranquill, Rashaan Evans
Interior Defensive Line
With Khyiris Tonga and Dalvin Tomlinson both headed to free agency, there’s a hole on the interior defensive line. Harrison Phillips is still under contract, but behind him are a lot of question marks with the likes of Ross Blacklock, James Lynch, Esezi Otomewo, and Jonathan Bullard. One of those guys could step up, but if the Vikings don’t bring back Tomlinson or Tonga, the run defense will likely struggle.
Edit - Tonga is an ERFA, meaning the Vikings can bring him back at a minimum contract, without him negotiating with other teams.
Draft Targets - Keeanu Benton, P.J. Mustipher
Interesting Free Agents - Sheldon Rankins, Taven Bryan
Patrick Peterson is a free agent, and while there is talent on the roster behind him, the Vikings lack a dominant corner. Duke Shelley, Cameron Dantzler, Akayleb Evans and Andrew Booth all have shown potential or were high draft picks. Will the Vikings bring back Peterson as a foundation to build these other young corners on, or will they try to grab a highly graded draft or free agent prospect?
Draft Targets - Cam Smith, Kyu Blu Kelly
Interesting Free Agents - Marcus Peters, Eli Apple
Smith and Hunter both had up and down seasons, and are both trade or cut candidates to save some cap space. Even if they are both kept for next season, the Vikings would be wise to bring in a young pass rusher or two, probably through the draft. Also, who they target depends on what scheme they will use with Brian Flores going forward, so we really won’t know what direction the team will go until later.
Draft Targets - Lukas Van Ness, Nolan Smith, B.J. Ojulari
Interesting Free Agents - Marcus Davenport, Jadeveon Clowney
Last year’s first-round pick, Lewis Cine, should be starting next to Harrison Smith next season unless Smith is a cap casualty. Either way, with Camryn Bynum and Josh Metellus also on the roster, I feel safety is probably the bottom priority for the defense this offseason. money and draft capital should be spent filling the other, more urgent holes on the defense.
That’s my take on what defensive positions the Vikings should prioritize in the upcoming months. What positions do you think they should look at? Who else would you target in the draft or free agency?