The Minnesota Vikings had a memorable regular season in 2022, winning the NFC North title with a 13-4 record that included 12 wins by 8 points or less.
Under first-year head coach Kevin O’Connell the Vikings displayed an offense that produced key plays often at the most important moments. However, the defense was unable to hold up its end of the bargain.
Even though the Vikings were winning games consistently, they were giving up yards and points in large amounts. They were blown out in losses to the Eagles, Cowboys and Packers, and when they hosted the New York Giants in the Wild Card game, the defense fell apart against ordinary quarterback Daniel Jones.
It was clear throughout the season that the Vikings had a subpar defense, ranking 31st in yards allowed and 30th in points allowed.
They fired defensive coordinator Ed Donatell after the playoff loss and replaced him with a more aggressive leader in Brian Flores.
However, the Vikings defense has struggled for years, and putting all the blame on the coach would be foolish. The personnel is simply not good enough, and general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah knows that.
The Vikings have made moves in free agency, signing defensive end Marcus Davenport, cornerback Byron Murphy and defensive lineman Dean Lowry.
However, they are not done. The defense is still not near a championship level, and weaknesses still need to be addressed.
Adofo-Mensah has to address his team’s salary-cap status — they are still $2.6 million over the cap — but once he does that, there are two players whom the Vikings should consider.
MLB Bobby Wagner
Wagner made his bones with the Seattle Seahawks, and he anchored that rock solid defense when it was at its best.
The 32-year-old Wagner moved on to the Los Angeles Rams last year, and while that team struggled badly after winning the Super Bowl the year before, the middle linebacker had an excellent season.
Wagner had a career-high 6.0 sacks, and he also had 140 tackles, 2 interceptions, and 5 passes defended. Wagner was rewarded by gaining second-team All-Pro honors.
The middle linebacker has gained first- or second-team All-Pro status for 9 consecutive years.
More than his numbers, Wagner is an all-out performer on every snap, and he would become a leader for a defense that badly needs someone who can set the pace for toughness and consistency.
CB Rock Ya-Sin
Ya-Sin will not be a high-priced addition. Entering his 5th year in the NFL after 3 seasons with the Colts and 1 with the Raiders, Ya-Sin has just 2 interceptions in his career.
He is not a game-changing player, but he excels in coverage and can shut down quality receivers.
Ya-Sin played in 11 games for the Raiders and started 9 of them, and he did not allow a touchdown reception all season.
That’s exactly the kind of quality pass coverage the Vikings need in 2023.
When a team ranks near the bottom of the defensive rankings and it has championship aspirations, it’s clear that major moves have to be made.
The Vikings have already made three signings, and if they are going to make more, they will have to address their salary-cap situation. If they do, bringing in a star like Wagner and a strong support player like Ya-Sin will help them put a much better defensive team on the field.