The Minnesota Vikings Should be Getting a Motivated Anthony Barr

Minnesota Vikings fans will tell you that their concern with Anthony Barr has never rested in his ability, or lack thereof. Everyone can see that he is supremely talented. He’s also highly intelligent. There’s a reason why Zim is so effusive in his praise for Barr, and it’s safe to say that it’s primarily because of the combination of elite ability and intelligence.

Nevertheless, the play on the field hasn’t always lived up to these abilities. Many Vikings fans would tell you that Barr has been a disappointment, a good-but-not-great player who was unworthy of the 9th overall pick. I know I’ve commonly thought about what could have been since Aaron Donald was chosen a couple picks later.

The fact, though, is that Barr is an excellent player, one who will be crucial to our success this season.

The Minnesota Vikings, Anthony Barr, and Rejuvenating the Defense

Last season’s defense didn’t work out as planned.

As a result, Minnesota’s leadership made it a top priority to get the defense back to top-tier. Free agent additions Dalvin Tomlinson, Patrick Peterson, Xavier Woods, and Mackensie Alexander will all be starters. Bashaud Breeland may end up being a starter. Partner that with some better health luck, and the personnel should be almost completely different on game day. On paper, they have a complete defense, and Barr is a big part of the equation.

Barr is going to once again be Zim’s chess piece on defense. In last week’s press conference, Zim explained Barr’s importance: “I think he was missed everywhere […] he’s tremendously smart, we always have a lot of packages for him, things he can do differently where a lot of players can’t do that. But not only that, he’s a terrific leader. Guys respect him in the locker room, coaches respect him and the way he goes about his business. He’s a guy that can communicate to me on where things are.” At the end, Zim summarized his statement by reaffirming that “he’s a really important part of our football team.”

Fans should always keep Zim’s perspective in mind. When it comes to evaluating defensive football, it’s safe to say that Zim knows far more than mere fans (I put myself at the front of this collective group). Even still, some grow frustrated by Barr’s lack of huge plays.

Take a look at the above video. Barr’s versatility and intelligence are on full display. Every part of the video is impressive, but perhaps the most impressive moment comes around the 0:45 mark.

Barr begins the play lined up directly over the center along the line of scrimmage. The play begins and the ball is thrown to the running back in the flat. Barr gets him down before the first down marker. Very, very few players can make that play. He had to go all the way from the middle of the field to the sideline in just a few moments. It’s really impressive.

At its most basic level, that play around the 0:45 mark is so impressive because it helps create a pre-snap advantage for the Vikings. Barr is showing blitz, so that prompts the Giants to adjust their play; Daniel Jones needs to get the ball out of his hands quick. In reality, Barr is responsible for picking up the running back one-on-one. Jones’ solution to the pressure is to hit his RB for the short pass. Zim, in all likelihood, understood what New York’s solution would be to the blitz. He thus has Barr picking up the RB in the knowledge that his stud LB has the capacity to eliminate New York’s solution.

Again, very few players can do what Barr did there.

The frustration from many Vikings fans is that Barr doesn’t do that all the time. There are games when he is simply dominant. There are others where he fades into the background. We almost never say the same about Eric Kendricks. Every single game we see Kendricks shooting through gaps as he secures a TFL or deflect a pass on a tough coverage assignment.

Why is there this discrepancy between Minnesota’s two stud linebackers? Well, the simplest answer is that their roles are different. Zim uses Barr as a utility player on defense, one who can seemingly do anything. Kendricks is given the freedom to be much more instinctive.

Not all fans are happy with this arrangement. Almost no one thinks Kendricks hasn’t lived up to his contract; many Vikings fans think Barr is overpaid. His previous deal – 5-years, $67.5 million – may have been too much, but we should all be enthused about the current numbers.

The Barr Contract

The main reason why I think we’re going to get the best version of Anthony Barr this season is because he agreed to restructure his deal with our Minnesota Vikings.

Rick Spielman and Barr agreed to trim down the contract to essentially a one-year, $10 million deal. There are some void years in there to make the cap work for Minnesota, but the broader point remains the same: Barr is playing on a one-year deal. Next offseason, Barr will have what is likely his last chance to secure a long-term deal. He is 29, so he’s nearing the end of his career.

Ask yourself: if you were an NFL vet staring down your final shot to get a massive amount of money, would you be motivated to put in work? Coaches are continually trying to find ways of motivating their players (some even flirt with the idea of bringing in lions).

Motivation really shouldn’t be an issue for Barr this year. In fact, the coaches will likely have to do very little to ensure their star LB is ready for games. Barr is going to want to put together dominant film throughout the season.

As the above video demonstrates, Barr can do essentially anything on the football field. He can be great in run defense, as a pass rusher, and in coverage. Partner that with the fact that he’s a good leader with high-level intelligence (which is to say nothing of his ability to effectively communicate with Minnesota’s crusty coach) and you can see why he has endeared himself to the coaching staff. He is very important to our team.

If the Vikings find success in 2021, it’ll be because a lot of different factors went right, such as the defense’s health and motivation. A motivated, healthy Anthony Barr will be a good first step.