A Former Viking Should Be on Minnesota’s Radar This Summer

Oct 18, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Atlanta Falcons running back Ito Smith (25) and Minnesota Vikings defensive end Yannick Ngakoue (91) in action during the game at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings entered this offseason with uncertainty in a lot of areas. Who would be the defensive coordinator in 2023? Would Kirk Cousins get a new contract? What would happen to veterans like Dalvin Cook, Eric Kendricks, Harrison Smith, and Adam Thielen? While we now have resolutions to a number of those offseason questions, one that likely wasn’t even on many folks’ radar back in February remains the big one that is unanswered: who will the Vikings roll out at the EDGE spots this fall?

This question came about largely from Za’Darius Smith’s request to be released from the team, which resulted in him being traded to the Cleveland Browns back in May. By the time the trade actually happened, it became rather obvious that he wouldn’t be on the team for much longer because of the signing of Marcus Davenport in free agency.

Will the Real Z-Smith Please Stand Up?
Oct 2, 2022; London, United Kingdom; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Za’Darius Smith. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

However, recently, there have been similar questions regarding the status of Danielle Hunter. The three-time Pro Bowler sat out OTAs and mandatory minicamp, and it appears he is in a contract dispute with the team heading into the final year of his deal. So, the Vikings may have two options: extend Hunter or trade him. One keeps him in Minnesota on a likely $20+ million per year contract while the other gives the Vikings some extra draft capital rather than losing him for nothing in free agency next offseason.

As a result, the Vikings sit in a bit of a limbo in regards to what their EDGE room will look like this fall. One man that could be a solution to this problem is a former Vikings player: Yannick Ngakoue.

Back in August 2020, Minnesota made the decision to trade for Ngakoue from the Jacksonville Jaguars, sending a 2021 second-round pick and conditional 2022 fifth-round pick in return. Days later, Hunter went down with his neck injury, infamously called a “tweak” at the time by then-head coach Mike Zimmer, and he proceeded to miss the entire season.

Former Viking
(AP Photo/Michael Conroy) (Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Ngakoue played a grand total of six games for the Vikings, recording 5 sacks and 5 tackles for loss, before being dealt again at the trade deadline. This time, Minnesota sent him to the Baltimore Ravens in exchange for a 2021 third-rounder and a conditional 2022 fifth-rounder, cutting their losses as much as they could from an unsuccessful season.

By the end of the year, Ngakoue would remain Minnesota’s sacks leader, with Ifeadi Odenigbo coming in second with 3.5 over the course of the season.

Since his very eventful 2020 season, Ngakoue has been a bit of a journeyman across the league. He spent the 2021 season with the Las Vegas Raiders before being traded once again to the Indianapolis Colts. He played 15 games in Indianapolis before shockingly being cut in the days after Minnesota’s historic comeback victory over the Colts.

Despite being forced to bounce all over the league in recent years, Ngakoue has remained productive everywhere he goes. In 2021 with the Raiders, he recorded 10 sacks while also putting together 9.5 sacks in his 15 games with the Colts. Over those two seasons, Pro Football Focus credited him with a total of 107 pressures.

Free Agency Hunt
Indianapolis Colts defensive end Yannick Ngakoue (91) celebrates after sacking Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) on Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022, during a game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Regardless of what happens with Hunter, Ngakoue is a guy that could bring the exact type of juice that Minnesota needs on their defense. While Davenport has also been a player that can pile up pressures, he’s been inconsistent in his ability to actually finish off plays. He recorded just half a sack over the course of the 2022 season after finishing 2021 with 9.5 for the Saints.

Ngakoue has proven throughout his career that he can finish these plays with sacks, never recording fewer than 8 in a single season over the course of his career. With the Vikings already missing a 10-sack player in Smith this year, this type of production should not be overlooked as Minnesota tries to fill out the remainder of their roster for 2023.

Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho and managing editor of PurplePTSD.com. When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh enjoys running, gaming, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. Check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken.