As free agency draws nearer, more and more names are emerging. The newest is defensive lineman, Muhammad Wilkerson, the latest cut from the Jets. Something the Vikings learned firsthand from the Eagles is teams can never have enough gifted pass rushers. So how could Wilkerson fit into the Vikings’ roster?
Towards the second half of the regular season, the Vikings defensive line started to break down. Guys were playing tons of snaps and there was not much depth behind the starters. Enter Wilkerson. He has been one of the more dominant linemen in the NFL since entering in 2011. Though it seems like Wilkerson has been playing in the NFL for longer, he is only 28-years-old.
However, the last two years have been very disappointing for numerous reasons. After collecting 12 sacks in 2015, he had only eight the past two seasons. But the issue has been more than just his declining play. There has been numerous reports questioning Wilkerson’s love for the game and if he truly cares. He has been late to meetings and lied about his reasoning for why he was late. Couple that with some injury history the past few seasons, and it is clear why the Jets parted ways. What is less clear is if the Vikings will have interest in Wilkerson.
But they should.
First, the Vikings have one of the stronger locker rooms in the league. Mike Zimmer has been able to get the best out of his players and Wilkerson still has a ton of talent. With Everson Griffin and Linval Joseph, the Vikings have two players on the defensive line that can work with Wilkerson and get him motivated to be the force he can be.
It is clear that the Vikings are looking for a defensive tackle to play next to Joseph. Wilkerson has the ability to play both tackle and end, but would primarily be used as a tackle in the Vikings system. However, being able to play Wilkerson at end would give the team the ability to move him around the line and theoretically, create matchup problems. A starting defensive line of Griffin, Joseph, Wilkerson and Danielle Hunter would be one of the most formidable in the entire league.
Teams around the league may be wary to sign Wilkerson long-term, given his regression since his big contract in 2016. However, he is a cheaper option than Sheldon Richardson, another defensive tackle the Vikings may look into. The Vikings could pursue an incentive-based deal with an option for a second year. That would give them flexibility and an exit if it does not work out. Wilkerson is a major risk, but also potentially brings major reward. If any situation is set for him to succeed, it is Minnesota’s.