Vikings Rumors: Off the Charts Pass Rush, Two in the 1st, and Losing Leverage?

Aug 10, 2023; Seattle, Washington, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin OÕConnell and Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) during warmups prior to the game at Lumen Field. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Since we’re officially into the portion of the year when Vikings rumors are arriving fast and furious, we’ll be highlighting some of the purple rumblings.

The “Vikings Rumor Wrangle” is a series that keeps readers informed on what’s being whispered about in Vikings Land. In this iteration, we discuss the Vikings building an elite pass rush, snagging a pair in the 1st round, and losing leverage with the negotiation.

Vikings Rumors: 04.24.2024

Rumor #1 — The Vikings Can Build an Off the Charts Pass Rush

Using a 1st on a defender has its merit. Nailing the opening-round selection could make things pretty excellent even if “off the charts” is overselling it.

The basic idea is that Minnesota could opt to use one of those 1sts on an edge rusher or a penetrating defensive tackle. Doing so would give Brian Flores a three-headed monster in the pass rush. Jonathan Greenard and Andrew Van Ginkel are replacing Danielle Hunter and D.J. Wonnum. The one-to-one shuffle leaves plenty of room for upside, but one wonders if Flores would welcome more (what defensive coach wouldn’t?).

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears
Oct 15, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores watches his team play against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

Last season, the Vikings led the NFL by blitzing 51.5% of the time. The 43 sacks, though, were closer to middle of the pack. Being able to send out a trio of players who can win their individual matchups will mean that the coordinator will be less reliant on the blitz to manufacture pressure. Less reliant means more unpredictable, a virtue in Flores’ world.

Plus, there are some rumblings about sprinkling in a bit more man coverage. Doing so could make it a bit tougher for QBs to pickup easy, short completions. The combination of some tighter coverage alongside more pass rushers should result in quarterbacks having a tougher time getting comfortable in the pocket.

Rumor #2 — The Vikings Will Pluck a Pair of Players Out of the Draft’s 1st Round

Jordan Reid of ESPN is the latest mock drafter to hint that Minnesota may avoid the dramatic move up the board.

Reid kicks J.J. McCarthy over to Minnesota at No. 8 — currently owned by the Falcons — while seeing Jer’Zhan Newton come over at No. 27 — currently owned by the Cardinals. Reid thinks the Michigan passer will fit well: “McCarthy is a great fit with the Vikings considering his skill set — he’s accurate and mobile — and the infrastructure in place in Minnesota.”

Jan 1, 2024; Pasadena, CA, USA; Michigan Wolverines quarterback J.J. McCarthy (9) throws a pass against the Alabama Crimson Tide during the first half in the 2024 Rose Bowl college football playoff semifinal game at Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Meanwhile, the Newton addition is meant to ratchet up the pressure from the iDL: “Minnesota doesn’t have a true penetrator in the middle of its defense, but that’s exactly what Newton can be for this team. He was an unblockable force at Illinois, posting 7.5 sacks last season. Few defensive linemen in this class have his level of versatility.”

The final word — versatility — makes him an intriguing fit within a Brian Flores defense. The draft analyst keeps going with the picks, so check out the full mock if you’re interested in learning more about the other selections across the seven rounds.

Rumor #3 — The Vikings are Losing Leverage in the Justin Jefferson Negotiation

While discussing a potential trade up the board, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah explained the basics about having leverage in a negotiation.

To the GM’s mind, the key rests in having the ability to do something different: “Your leverage in a negotiation is your willingness to do something else. So I gotta say, ‘I will not do this because I would rather do these three other things and make our team better.’ It’s gotta mean something.”

One wonders what kind of options are present with Mr. Jefferson.

Dec 24, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) catches a touchdown pass from quarterback Nick Mullens (not pictured) as Detroit Lions cornerback Cameron Sutton (1) defends during the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The Vikings’ general manager and head coach have been consistent: the goal is to keep Justin Jefferson in town for a long time. And while the desire is present, an extension remains undone.

Recently, the star receiver made a social media post that raised some eyebrows. Plus, there was the absence from the initial portion of the offseason workouts. In the end, the post could amount to nothing; so, too, could the absence be a minor blip. Safe to say, though, that there’s some anxiety about this one. People in Minnesota want to see Jefferson kept around for the long haul.

Bringing things around to leverage. Does Adofo-Mensah have very much? Is he willing to do something other than extend his top receiver? Some, like PFT’s Mike Florio, think that the lack of extension makes a trade a “possibility.”

But while a trade with Jefferson is still supremely unlikely, the lack of extension is causing some concern.

Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Reference 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.