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NFL Draft

3 Defensive Free Agents Vikings Should Target

  • The Draft Network
  • February 11, 2021
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The Minnesota Vikings’ defense has been ignored for far too long. The lack of talent within each level of the defense has left general manager Rick Spielman in a precarious spot entering the 2021 offseason. 

Despite missing the entirety of the 2020 campaign, Danielle Hunter now may be required to restructure his $72M extension he signed in 2018. A two-time Pro Bowler, Hunter serves as the anchor in an overall underwhelming unit, and they desperately missed his presence off the edge this past fall. Anthony Barr also presents his own set of obstacles. A once-heralded “green dot” within the Minnesota defense, Barr was also ineffective in 2020, appearing in just two contests. If co-defensive coordinators Andrew Zimmer and Andre Patterson have any plans of rejuvenating a subpar unit in 2020, they’ll need Hunter and Barr to serve as the anchors for the purple and gold heading into the fall. 

After allowing the fourth-most points in the NFL, Minnesota’s success next fall relies heavily on Spielman’s additions this spring. With limited cap space, I targeted scheme fits and players who could add some pop into a Vikings defense that has lacked identity.

Tashaun Gipson, S, Chicago Bears

You want pop, you got it in Gipson. Following a down year in 2020, a breath of fresh air in Minnesota would be welcomed for the former Pro Bowl safety. Alongside Harrison Smith, Gipson would be allowed to move closer into the box, where he thrives. Constantly around the football, Gipson’s game hinges upon his ability to showcase his physicality. Also, I don’t think he would mind playing his old team twice a year. His veteran presence and physical game would provide a much-needed sense of identity within Minnesota’s defense. 

Ryan Kerrigan, EDGE, Washington Football Team

Washington’s franchise leader in sacks looks to be on his way out of the nation's capital following an influx of youth within the burgundy and gold’s defensive line—highlighted by 2020 No. 2 overall selection Chase Young. There are only so many snaps to go around, and Kerrigan found himself as a rotational piece in 2020, which led to much of his chagrin toward defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio. If Hunter stays healthy, Kerrigan would be a nice plug and play option opposite him. Although a typical LDE—where Hunter plays—Kerrigan moved around the line in Washington and could move to RDE with an offseason of work. Minnesota recorded just 1.4 sacks per game in 2020, fifth-worst in the NFL. Despite his limited work in Washington this past season, he still managed 5.5 sacks, third among all Washington defenders. His addition as a rotational rusher, or starter, could prove well worth the value for a team that has lacked juice off the edge. 

Troy Hill, CB, Los Angeles Rams

Patrick Peterson is the Lamborghini of this year’s corner class and would be the ideal signing, but as previously mentioned, the Vikings have limited cap space and must address their needs without breaking the bank. Hill has been an above-average corner for the Rams, totaling seven interceptions combined the last three seasons in Los Angeles. With above-average depth in this year’s draft at corner, Spielman isn’t forced to back up the Brinks truck for a talent like Peterson. Instead, opting for Hill—a quick-twitch corner with above-average ball skills and football IQ—would fit nicely alongside Cameron Dantzler and Jeff Gladney. 

Honorable mention:

Trey Hendrickson, EDGE, New Orleans Saints

With his breakout 2020 season, Hendrickson could have priced himself out of New Orleans. He was outstanding in 2020. How good? His 13.5 sacks ranked only behind T.J. Watt of the Pittsburgh Steelers. A former fourth-round selection in 2017, Hendrickson served as another breakout draft selection under Saints general manager Mickey Loomis. At just 26 years old, his burst, bend, and hand usage is elite, and at some points, dominant, so if Spielman is looking to spend up anywhere, Hendrickson could be the spot to do so.

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