Did the Vikings’ Free Agency Interests Reveal a New Draft Plan?

Every Draft Pick Kwesi Adofo-Mensah Has Played a Role in Making
Nov 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah looks on before the game against the New England Patriots at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sport.

The major wave of NFL free agency is now behind us, and many of the league’s most notable stars have found homes for the 2024 season.

The Minnesota Vikings were one of the more active teams in free agency as they attempted to recoup the losses of names like Kirk Cousins, Jordan Hicks, and Danielle Hunter. However, with the Vikings free agency period largely in the rearview, one position remains largely unaddressed: the defensive tackle spot.

Did the Vikings’ Free Agency Interests Reveal a New Draft Plan?

Dec 10, 2023; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell walks on the field before the start of a game against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota did bring in names like Jerry Tillery and Jonah Williams, but they weren’t able to bring in a “blue chip” type of player to solidify their defensive trenches. Apparently, the lack of signing in this department wasn’t due to a lack of effort, though.

KSTP’s Darren Wolfson explained on SKOR North’s “Mackey and Judd Show” this week, “O’Connell alluded to this on Monday, just how much work, how much the Vikings were in on some of these defensive tackles, namely Christian Wilkins. Like, what the Raiders gave Wilkins, I think surprised the Vikings. Those 48 hours leading into the official start of free agency, like I’m telling you, the Vikings were feeling very very good about their chances of landing Christian Wilkins.”

Wilkins is a premier talent on the defensive line, and he certainly would have been a massive boost to Minnesota’s defense. To boot, he would have been given the chance to reunite with Brian Flores, who was the head coach when Miami drafted him in 2019.

Over his first five NFL seasons, Wilkins has put together 355 tackles, 43 tackles for loss, 20.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, 19 passes defended, and an interception.

Nov 5, 2023; Frankfurt, Germany; Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Christian Wilkins (94) reacts against the Kansas City Chiefs in the first half during an NFL International Series game at Deutsche Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

However, Wilkins opted to sign a massive four-year deal worth $110 million with the Las Vegas Raiders, joining Maxx Crosby and Tyree Wilson on their defensive front. Meanwhile, the Vikings were left hunting for defensive tackle help.

With their interest in Wilkins on the brain, could the Vikings opt to turn towards the draft to find a defensive tackle? Of course, many are projecting that Minnesota will package their 11th and 23rd overall picks to take a quarterback. However, they currently don’t hold any other top-100 picks this spring.

If the Vikings decide to hold onto the 23rd overall pick, they hypothetically could have their choice of a number of different talented prospects at the position. Byron Murphy and Johnny Newton seem to be the consensus prospects at the top of the class at DT while Darius Robinson is a versatile “do-it-all” player on the defensive line.

Free Agency
Nov 6, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini defensive lineman Jer’Zhan Newton (94) reacts to a missed stop in the third quarter at Huntington Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Considering Minnesota has already had to completely revamp their edge rushing group after Hunter, Marcus Davenport, and D.J. Wonnum left in free agency, the Vikings need to find more pass rushing help from their defensive tackle group this year.

Selecting a defensive tackle in the first round should not be ruled out until Minnesota officially makes a trade up the board.

Editor’s Note: Statistics for this article were found via Pro Football Reference.

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.