The Minnesota Vikings were quite a disappointment this past season. They closed out the season 8-7-1, finishing second in the NFC North Division. A huge reason why they didn’t live up to their expectations was their defensive regression. The energy and production from the crew seemed to hit a standstill.
The season prior, in 2017, the Vikings finished first in the league in points allowed. In the 2018 season, they ranked ninth. It wasn’t that their defense was bad. It’s that the expectations for their season were much higher. The same talent was on the team but there wasn’t the same execution.
The one member of the defense who seemed to step up and play well was Sheldon Richardson. On the season, he had 49 tackles and 4.5 sacks. His presence inside was one reason why the Vikings were able to stop the run so well. Otherwise, Anthony Barr and Danielle Hunter were fine as linebackers, but otherwise, their play was underwhelming.
The Vikings’ bread and butter is their defense. They have one of the best collections of defensive players in the league. Per Over the Cap, the Vikings will have around $7 million of cap space coming into the offseason. Richardson is now a free agent. How they replace Richardson will have a huge impact. But he’s not the only free agent for the Vikings.
The best decision they could make is bringing back their linebacker, Barr. Last season for the Vikings, Barr started and played 13 games, getting 55 tackles, eight tackles for loss, three sacks, one forced fumble, and two pass deflections. Pro Football Focus graded him out at 71.4, making him 26th-best linebacker in the NFL.
However, the Vikings likely won’t have the funds to replace Barr. He’s going to draw a multi-year deal worth eight figures. Unless he takes an extremely team-friendly deal, it’s likely that the team will look elsewhere.
There aren’t a ton of outside linebackers on the market. Minnesota could acquire Dee Ford from the Kansas City Chiefs, but his cap hit will be around $17 million. The Vikings need to be cost-efficient in how they replace his production.
Someone who makes a lot of sense to bring in is Clay Matthews of the Green Bay Packers. Matthews had played under Mike McCarthy and the Packers his past season; however, he wasn’t very effective, collecting only 43 tackles and 3.5 sacks. In his prime, he had 10 or more sacks four times. At age 32, he still has a few years left in the tank.
The Vikings have a big decision to make. They need to fill in their pass rush for the short term. They need to capitalize on their strong defensive core. Bringing in like a veteran like Matthews would solidify their front seven.