Rick Sosa’s Territory Journey- Recapping the Off-Season pt. Free Agency
Rick Spielman, Mike Zimmer and the Vikings entered the free agency period with one goal in mind, rebuild the 28th ranked defense in the NFL during the 2020 season. The first step was to add quality to the trenches and help the struggles with stopping the run, an issue that was displayed on national television on Christmas Day when Saints RB Alvin Kamara scored six rushing touchdowns. The Vikings allowed 52 points and 267 rushing yards to New Orleans in one of the worst defeats in franchise history.
The Vikings scored big with the signing of DT Dalvin Tomlinson, a player who has not reached his peak performance years yet but he is about to which is exactly when you would have to invest in a free agent. In a similar scenario to that of Linval Joseph, Tomlinson arrives as a former New York Giant with tremendous upside at both the nose and 3 tech tackle positions. With the return of also DT Michael Pierce from his Covid opt out year, Tomlinson is expected to start at the 3 tech position next to Pierce and will likely become the new “purple wall” in 2021. While the NY Giants gave all their attention and money to their marquee DT Leonard Williams, Rick Spielman was able to sign Tomlinson for $22M and a 2 year contract. An absolute steal for a player who is about to become a force of disruption in the NFL.
Next the Vikings needed to address their secondary with a veteran who could help mentor the young CB room and still add value on the field. They did just that. Patrick Peterson agreed to terms with the Vikings looking to catch a second wind in his career after an illustrious decade in Arizona that became less productive in the last couple of seasons. Peterson was asked to do things like man coverage that he is not able to do any longer. However under Mike Zimmer’s cover two scheme he could find the fountain of youth and become an elite CB again. His presence in the locker room will bring a lot of value for the Vikings. Rick Spielman was making all the right moves.
The Vikings needed more help in the defensive backfield and they turned to a familiar face. Former CB Mackensie Alexander signed with Minnesota after spending a year with the Cincinnati Bengals providing more experience and a much needed veteran presence in the building. Alexander is very familiar with Mike Zimmer defensive scheme and will likely start as a nickle CB in week 1. The new arrivals kept coming, S Xavier Woods also signed with the Vikings after a difficult 2020 season with the Dallas Cowboys hoping to find his groove under a DB guru like Zimmer. The Vikings were in desperate need of safety help after veteran Anthony Harris agreed to terms with the Philadelphia Eagles.
More lower profile signings ensued in former LA Chargers LB Nick Vigil and former Arizona Cardinals C Mason Cole. Vigil arrives as a substitute for Eric Wilson who also signed with the Eagles while Cole comes in as a replacement of eternal backup Brett Jones. Rick Spielman also resigned team free agents Chad Beebe, Rashod Hil and Dakota Dozier. Although Dozier’s signing came with a non guaranteed contract, it was received with much skepticism by the fan base and critics after the interior guard posted the lowest PFF grade in the entire NFL for 2020.
Quietly the Vikings also added K Greg Joseph from the Tennessee Titans truly giving new Special Teams Coordinator Ryan Ficken a clean slate to start working with his unit. As it looks Rick Spielman was able to reconstruct the defense with a phenomenal free agency period. Next is the draft where the Vikings will have to primarily address the offensive line to complete the roster and be ready to compete for the division title and beyond in 2021.