The Minnesota Vikings defense, especially the line, really struggled this past season.
The return of Danielle Hunter and Michael Pierce will help, but they could still use an upgrade at defensive tackle next to Pierce.
Jaleel Johnson is a free agent and is not expected to be back. Shamar Stephen could be released, which would save the team $3.75 million.
Among the defensive tackles that will be available are Geno Atkins and Kawann Short. Given that Mike Zimmer spent time with Atkins while with the Cincinnati Bengals, it would make plenty of sense if the Vikings made a run at him.
Neither should cost much either, given their age and recent injuries. Sheldon Rankins is a free agent and could be an option as well.
Rankins has missed 10 games the past two years, but will be only 27 soon, so he will likely cost more.
Atkins will be 33 and missed eight games this past season. Short is 32 and has missed 27 games the past two years.
Short may be the cheapest of the three given he has missed the most games recently, but Atkins looks to be the most likely scenario for the Vikings.
He was drafted by the Bengals in the fourth round (120th overall) of the 2010 draft. He has spent his entire career with them. Zimmer spent four seasons with him there and Paul Guenther eight seasons.
Atkins is a eight-time Pro Bowler and a two-time First-Team All-Pro (2012 and 2015). He has racked up 75.5 career sacks in 161 games (134 starts).
Before missing eight games this past season, he appeared in every game the previous six years and nine seasons total.
His best days are clearly behind him, but he would still be a good addition for the Vikings. Still a good player and knows the team’s scheme.
Of all the available defensive tackles on the market, Atkins looks like to be the most likely one to become a Viking. Maybe he won’t be though and they will either sign another one or draft one. Maybe they will even bring Stephen back.
Defensive tackle is not the team’s only need, but certainly one of them. As always, the offseason will be very interesting and entertaining.