Brian Flores, The Vikings Defense, & Mercenaries for Hire

Does Brian Flores have what he needs to be successful?

Around this time last offseason, I could be found advocating for adding more pass-rush help. Left in charge of the purple personnel – we should be very thankful I’m not – I’d make it a top priority to be bursting at the seams with pass rushers. Piling up defenders who inspire fear in the offense is a laudable goal in an NFL where passing has never been more prominent.

Brian Flores, it’s probably safe to assume, would welcome the addition of some defensive mercenaries. Or, put differently, free agent signings who can function as weapons in his defense, even if only for a single season.

Dec 19, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores reacts while walking on the field before the game against the New York Jets at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

The cap situation has been evolving throughout the week. Initially, the team had to clear more than $24 million just to get under the cap. Kwesi Adofo-Mensah went to work, though, trimming money by moving on from Eric Kendricks. We’ve since seen the team cut Adam Thielen and Cameron Dantzler. There was even a restructure for a DT.

In the end, we’re left wondering: does it make sense to go all-out on adding pass rushers who can help in 2023? Assuming the huge names will be too pricey, would it instead be prudent to bring in 2 or 3 modestly-priced defensive weapons?

More specifically, I’m thinking of someone like Ogbonnia Okoronkwo. The former Rams & Texans EDGE has a history with Kevin O’Connell and plays a position of need. He’s only 27 and has received strong grades on PFF over these past couple seasons. Last year, he had 5 sacks, 11 QB hits, and 9 TFLs. He carried a $3.25 million cap hit in 2022. The former Ram is a top-10 player in the PurplePTSD Top 32 Free Agents for the Minnesota Vikings.

Jan 8, 2023; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Houston Texans linebacker Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (45) pressures Indianapolis Colts quarterback Sam Ehlinger (4) in the pocket Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023, during a game against the Houston Texans at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Scheer-USA TODAY Sports

What about Justin Houston? The veteran went to Baltimore last year for just a 1-year, $3.5 million deal. In the end, the veteran put together 9.5 sacks, 17 QB hits, and 7 TFLs. He did so as a player who only had 1 start. In other words, he put up gaudy stats even though he was a rotational player. Now that was an excellent signing.

Earlier in the week, we learned that the defending Super Bowl champs will be moving on from Frank Clark. He’s a long way from the 13 sacks he put up in 2018, though he did chip in 5 last year for the Chiefs. He added on 13 QB hits and 8 TFLs. His previous deal was huge – 5 years, $104 million – but it’s difficult to imagine he gets something similar. Entering his age-30 season, Clark is someone to keep in the back of your mind.

Feb 12, 2023; Glendale, Arizona, US; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) throws a pass against Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Frank Clark (55) during the second quarter of Super Bowl LVII at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

We could go on by discussing Marcus Davenport, Jadeveon Clowney, DeMarcus Walker, Melvin Ingram, and/or several other players. Rather than belabor the point, though, let’s instead circle back to the main point.

Brian Flores wants an aggressive defense in 2023. More importantly, he wants a successful defense, one that proves to be stubbornly difficult to move the ball on. Equipping him with the necessary personnel seems like a basic prerequisite. Give the man a ton of pass rushers to work with. Danielle Hunter is an excellent place to start, but let’s not end there.

Tomorrow, Adofo-Mensah can begin the free agent flirtations. Keep in mind that we’ll need to wait until Wednesday for deals to become 100% official. Look for the sophomore GM to consider bringing in some help for Flores.

Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Reference, PFF, and Over the Cap helped with this piece.