How do we get the signature Minnesota Vikings defense back in 2021?

Defense is back!

Fresh off of a stellar defensive performance in the Super Bowl, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have made it apparent that a good/great defense can take you far. The Bucs manhandled the Chiefs offense in the trenches, in coverage, and just about in every aspect of the game. The point? Simple. Great defenses win championships. The Minnesota Vikings defense has a path to get back on track this season.

Outside of the 2020 Season, Mike Zimmer has had some great defenses on the field and that doesn’t just come by accident. Dating back to 2011, Mike Zimmer defenses have been top 10 in points allowed 8 out of 10 years. Those outside occurrences had Zimmer’s defenses coming in at 11th and this most recent season coming in at 29th. In other words, the Minnesota Vikings defense under Mike Zimmer has been consistently good.

The major question is, how does the Minnesota Vikings Defense get back to that elite level?

The answer: quality talent and a healthy roster.

Key roster moves to monitor this offseason are Kyle Rudolph, Anthony Barr and Shamar Stephen. The Vikings are currently over the cap by 7 Million. Looking at Rudolph’s production compared to the other TEs on the roster (Smith Jr. and Conklin), the Vikings could cut ties with Rudolph to save about 7 million this coming season with a post-June 1 cut designation. (See below for numbers, per Over the Cap)

Shamar Stephen is another cut candidate that can free up 2 million to get us under the cap.

The Vikings will have some decisions to make as far as wanting to reload, implode or kick the can down the road. Anthony Barr is an interesting case on the Vikings roster. Zimmer loves Barr and I would have a hard time seeing him wanting to cut ties. Looking back, the 2020 season revealed a lot about the depth of our LB core so I envision a restructure would be coming to free up some space. 

After making these moves, we would still have some major holes to fill. I am confident that Zimmer and GM Rick Spielman will reload this roster with some fresh blood to make a run at the NFC North title this year.

Top needs for the Minnesota Vikings Defense

  1. Defensive End
  2. 3-T Defensive Tackle
  3. Safety

I could easily see the Vikings drafting for these needs or  bringing in some cheap veteran talent with a possible Everson Griffin reunion, a solid DT, and an affordable veteran safety. After addressing these needs, the Vikings defense can achieve being at worst, top 20 with the potential to get back into the top 10.

Depth Chart Analysis

Ifeadi Odenigbo is still very valuable and could slide back inside to DT with a top DE pick like Kwity Paye. The real question is who will slide into that 3rd LB spot. The Minnesota Vikings defense has played a lot of nickel defense so Mike Hughes would fill into that role. The last spot to find a player through the draft or free agency will be safety. Either the draft or free agents will be brought in to fill out the remaining roster.

I envision the 2021 Vikings defense will get back on track. This will come as a surprise to some but the writing is on the wall if you look at this roster and see how much the young talent developed last season. 

If you’re interested in more awesome and super accurate predictions/takes, please follow me @JustinBreske and our beautiful podcast @BlessTheKneesB3. We love our Vikings and would love to have our listenership grow. Thanks for reading!