Shop for Minnesota Vikings gear at Fanatics.com

OFFSEASON PREVIEW: Defensive Tackle

I am going to keep plugging away at these position-by-position breakdowns.  I did want to give everyone a quick warning though.  The offseason is about to heat up, so these may become outdated rather quickly.  I write these in advance and then schedule them to be unveiled one day at a time, so sometimes they may be outdated by the time they post.  I will do my best to update them as things change, however, and keep you current on all the offseason dealings.

Defensive tackle is a position that many “draftniks” have as a high priority for the Vikings, so we should take a close look at why that might be.

2009 Season

The WilliamsWall (Pat & Kevin Williams) continued to be one of the league’s best interior tandems.  They led the Vikings to being the second best team (damn you Packers!) when it came to stuffing opposing running backs.  It is a fair assumption that if E.J. Henderson would’ve been healthy for the entire season that they could’ve been the best runs topping team for yet another consecutive season.

Kevin Williams ended the season with 22 tackles, six sacks, and a forced fumble.  Pat Williams had 34 tackles, two sacks, and two forced fumbles despite missing a game with injury and playing on limited snaps.

Filling in for Pat Williams on passing downs was often Jimmy Kennedy, who turned out to be a very pleasant surprise for the Vikings.  He produced 15 tackles including three sacks.

Backup tackles Fred Evans and LeTroy Guion saw very limited playing time this year (Brian Robison also slid inside to play DT from time to time) and only combined for seven tackles.

Current Roster

The Vikes will be trying to avoid too much unrest at the tackle position this offseason, but have a few hurdles to jump in order to make that happen.  Luckily, their best tackle is Kevin Williams and he is in no danger of leaving this offseason.

Pat Williams on the other hand is 37 years old and seemingly starting to fade a bit.  His run stopping ability still ranks right up there with the best of them, but he will only be able to handle so many snaps per game.  Williams said after the loss to the Saints that he was “50-50” on whether or not he would retire this year.  All signs indicate that he will be back, however, which makes this position less of an emergency for the Vikings.  This will be Pat’s final year of his contract, and very likely the final year of his career.

Jimmy Kennedy is 30 years old and is one of the Vikings very few unrestricted free agents.  The Vikings would probably love to re-sign him before he hits the open market, but this could be more difficult than many fans think.  Kennedy bounced around the league a bit after being a major disappointment and first round bust.  He hated the thought of playing in Minnesota and expressed that to his agent, but his options were so thin he had no choice.  He got into the best shape of his career this season, and one has to wonder if his improved work ethic and improved production were carefully planned because he still wants to play somewhere else.  This will be an interesting storyline between now and March 5th when free agency opens up.

Fred Evans has shown me nothing but promise when given the opportunity to play, but I know many Vikings fans would beg to differ.  He is a restricted free agent at the age of 26, and to me it makes sense for the Vikings to tender him at a low level and keep him around for at least one more year.  He has done nothing to suggest that he can’t play the position well and he would at least prolong the inevitable turnover that the Vikings will soon see at this position.  It should be noted, however, that he booted from the Dolphins because of character issues.

Guion will still be under contract and in no danger of leaving unless he is cut.

Unrestricted Free Agency

After learning more about the rules surrounding the “uncapped year” and how they will affect a top-four team like the Vikings, I feel like I should just not bother with this section.

But I will… because I promised you I would… and I don’t like to break promises… and I love the offseason… and I long for the good old days (last year) when the offseason was fun…

Anyways, there are quite a few quality options available at defensive tackle.  The nice thing about the 4-3 defense that the Vikings run is that a nose tackle is not a must, but rather a luxury.  While the Vikings would love to replace Pat Williams with another nose tackle to stuff the run, it is not a make-or-break type of thing.

Nose tackles do, however, highlight this year’s free agency class as far as interior defensive linemen go.  Vince Wilfork, Casey Hamtpon, Aubrayo Franklin (recently franchised by the Niners), and Ryan Pickett are the best unrestricted guys available.  Richard Seymour is also available, but probably will get a new giant contract very soon since the Raiders gave up a first rounder to obtain him and would be laughed at for years if they let him get away after playing only one season with the team.  Given the restrictions on the Vikings and who they can sign this offseason, it is highly unlikely that they even get a chance to make an offer to one of these guys.

After taking age, injuries, and character concerns into account it is obvious that Jimmy Kennedy is the best option for the Vikings and that they need to do whatever they can to sign him to a two or three year contract.

Restricted Free Agency

Nose tackle is not something that will really be easily addressed by the restricted free agent crop.  In fact, there are very few attractive defensive tackle options available as restricted free agents when one has to consider they will have to pay compensation to acquire them.

The one guy that may be worth it is Barry Cofield, the 26 year old Giant who played decent this season despite making a comeback from major knee surgery.  Do not expect the Vikings to look too hard at him, however, or any restricted defensive tackle for that matter.

Draft Possibilities

This coming draft class provides numerous prospects that show a lot of promise at the defensive tackle position.  In fact, if someone of value falls to the Vikings, it would not be too much of a shock to see them use their first round pick on the position.

If the Vikings want to find a replacement for Pat in the form of a big nose tackle, then that should be somewhat easy to do in this draft.  Dan Williams out of Tennessee and Terrence Cody from Alabama are widely considered the top two nose tackles in this class and either could very well be available when the Vikings first pick.  Either of these guys will have to be very carefully considered by the Vikings brass, as they would have some very big pants shoes to fill.  If the Vikings do not want to commit their first rounder to a non-starter, then Cam Thomas North Carolina and Torrell Troup from South Florida could be second round considerations.

If the Vikings decide not to worry about nose tackle for now, but still want a young defensive tackle then there are solid options available there as well.  While the Vikings will probably get nowhere near Suh and McCoy, the two best tackles in this draft, Brian Price out of UCLA is considered a first round talent that would be hard to pass up should he fall to the Vikings somehow.

There are a ton of mid-round prospects that could pan out at the next level to be considered as well.  If the Vikings can identify a “sleeper” that sets himself apart from the pack but will be available after the fourth round, then that would be great.  After all, whoever the Vikings draft will probably have a year to learn behind Pat Williams before being called upon to do too much.

Trade Possibilities

I don’t see the Vikings getting into trade talks surrounding the tackle position.  In theory they could tag Jimmy Kennedy and then deal him to a willing team, but that would be a great amount of risk to take on when it would probably net you only a 6th or 7th round draft pick.

Projections

I think Pat Williams is coming back for one more go of it and I also think the Vikings will use Fred Evans’ restricted status to retain him until at least training camp.

Jimmy Kennedy is the bigger question, as I could see him trying to get out of Minnesota and trying to get one final contract with lucrative incentives somewhere else.  Do not be surprised if the Vikings either make him an offer that he refuses or if the Vikings re-sign him to a contract that everyone considers to be too much money.

I’m guessing that the Vikings will be willing to draft a defensive tackle at any point in the upcoming draft if the value is there.  I don’t think the need is as pressing as many others seem to think it is, but the Vikings will make the pick if it is a “steal” whether it is in the first round or the seventh round.

I’m guessing they will find someone in the fourth or fifth rounds that they have faith in to eventually pick up the baton and run with it.


Enjoyed this post?
Subscribe to Vikings Gab via RSS Feed or E-mail and receive daily news updates from us!

Submit to Digg  Stumble This Story  Share on Twitter  Post on Facebook  Post on MySpace  Add to del.icio.us  Bark It Up  Submit to Reddit  Fave on Technorati

3 Responses to “OFFSEASON PREVIEW: Defensive Tackle”

  1. bigjohnny84 says:

    What’s the status on the Starcaps situation? That could change things.

    • Adam Warwas says:

      Oh, c’mon, Johnny! As if the uncapped year isn’t confusing enough you have to go and bring that up…!?!

      In all seriousness I forgot about the StarCaps case. This could come back to haunt the Vikes in 2010… all the more reason to make sure they get Kennedy back… but the last update I saw was that this will be tied up in court for quite some time.

      Great question! I’ll do some sniffing around.

Leave a Reply