Vikings Fill Open Roster Spot, Snag Another Defensive Lineman

On Tuesday, the news emerged that the Vikings were moving on from veteran corner Joejuan Williams. Doing so foreshadowed another move since the team wasn’t clearing a roster spot for no reason.

Very reasonably, some thought that Jerry Jacobs could be the newest Viking since he’s coming in for a visit (per ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler), but that possibility will need to wait. Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has instead opted to re-sign James Lynch, meaning the Vikings will fill the d-line with another option to compete for the 53-man roster. The word from the team’s official social media account: “The #Vikings have signed DL James Lynch and released CB Joejuan Williams.”

Vikings Fill Open Roster Spot with James Lynch

In an ideal world, James Lynch can be a versatile player for the defensive line, one who specializes in creating some havoc on passing downs.

He’s a touch undersized at 6’4″, 295, so he looks like more of a 3T/5T than a 1T. Or, put differently, a player who will line up somewhere across from the guard or tackle instead of directly across from the center. No one will be mistaking him for Pat Williams or Linval Joseph.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears
Dec 20, 2021; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago Bears wide receiver Darnell Mooney (11) is tackled in the second quarter against Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle James Lynch (92) at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

Lynch arrived in Minnesota in the 4th Round of the 2020 NFL Draft, scooped up at No. 130 by Rick Spielman. The defender played his college ball at Baylor, where he offered some eye-popping statistics.

During his final season, Lynch picked up 41 tackles, 13.5 sacks, and 19.5 tackles for a loss. So, elite production, especially when we toss in the 3 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, and 5 passes defended.

PFF was pretty high on him, ranking him at 99th overall on their board, a fringe 3rd-Round assessment. Take a look at their scouting blurb: “Lynch is firmly a tweener. He’s undersized for the interior, but lacks ideal length/burst for the edge. He doesn’t have high-ceiling physical tools, but he’s powerful enough to add plus run defense and pass-rushing ability at the next level.”

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings
Nov 21, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Green Bay Packers wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown (19) and Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle James Lynch (92) at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Lynch’s initial seasons in the NFL didn’t match the gaudy statistics from Baylor. His highest snap count arrived in 2021, picking up 305 defensive plays in Mike Zimmer’s final season. He has played in 37 games but only has a trio of starts. For his career, Lynch is sitting at 2 sacks and 4 tackles for a loss.

The defensive lineman missed all of 2023 due to injury.

Harrison Phillips is returning as the Vikings’ top option at defensive tackle, but then it’s a competition to fill in the remaining openings. Some combination of Jaquelin Roy, Jerry Tillery, Jonathan Bullard, Jonah Williams, and Levi Drake Rodriguez (among others) will need to show themselves capable of soaking up snaps.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers
Oct 29, 2023; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Harrison Phillips (97) reacts after making a stop in the third quarter against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

At 25, James Lynch still has quite a bit of youth to offer even though he’ll be entering Year 5 in the NFL. Can Brian Flores push the defender to hitherto unknown heights?

Being able to offer a bit of pressure on passing downs would make Lynch a very valuable part of Minnesota’s game day roster.

Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Reference and Sports Reference CFB helped with this piece.

K. Joudry is the Senior Editor for Vikings Territory and PurplePTSD. He has been covering the Vikings full time since the summer of 2021. He can be found on Twitter and as a co-host for Notes from the North, a humble Vikings podcast.