2022 Minnesota Vikings free agent signings: Jordan Hicks could signal defensive change – Minnesota Vikings Blog
NFL free agency is on the move, and we’re tracking every major signing, trade, and exit from the 2022 offseason, with analysis from our NFL Nation reporters and expert ratings. The league’s new year begins Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET, which means free agent signings can be made official afterward. The first round of the 2022 NFL Draft begins April 28 on ESPN.
The Minnesota Vikings are once again heading for another defense rebuild with a new scheme being installed and several key elements heading to free agency. Whether Danielle Hunter, who is credited with an $18 million bonus on the fifth day of the league year, is on the roster or not, the Vikings need to bolster their passing rush, whether it comes in the form of point runners or outside linebackers who can get after the quarterback. They also need to find defenders, in the form of linebackers and inside defensive linemen, to bolster a rush defense that allowed 4.7 yards per carry in 2021, the fourth-worst mark in the NFL. Cornerback is another priority with expected turnover at the position, and inside the offensive line is again a focal point for a unit that ranked 25th in pass block win rate, a ESPN metric powered by Next Gen Stats.
Here’s a breakdown of every 2021 NFL free agent signing from the Vikings, and how each will impact the upcoming season:
Hicks and the Vikings have agreed to terms on a two-year, $12 million contract.
What this means: The Vikings needed to modernize their roster after focusing their personnel acquisitions on former coach Mike Zimmer’s 4-3 defense for the past eight years. New defensive coordinator Ed Donatell has used a 3-4 pattern in most of his recent saves, meaning the Vikings needed a second inside linebacker to partner Eric Kendricks. Hicks can slip into that role, having played it well for three seasons at Arizona, where he also wore the green dot on his helmet and called defensive signals. Donatell has said he’ll use the 4-3 as well as the 3-4, but the Hicks acquisition — and there’s no indication Kendricks is about to go away — suggests the 3-4 could be his base.
What is the risk: There is not much risk here. Hicks will be 30 when the season starts, but he’s played — and started — every game for the Cardinals after signing there before the 2019 season. Plus, it’s not like the Vikings have made a huge commitment. financial. Hicks has a strong league-wide reputation for his character and leadership, and he handled some professional disappointments admirably in Arizona. In consecutive years, the Cardinals have drafted players in his position to presumably replace him. In each case, he plowed — and kept his starting job.
Phillips agreed to a three-year deal that would max out at $19.5 million, assuming he takes a starting role.
What this means: Phillips was a backup for much of his career with the Bills, but the size of his contract suggested the Vikings had a starting role in mind for him. It was an interesting proposition, as they had two starting defensive tackles on the roster, thanks to the 2020 and 2021 free agent classes: Michael Pierce and Dalvin Tomlinson. Phillips’ signing suggested at least one of them will leave the roster, via release or trade, and the Vikings responded Tuesday morning by releasing Pierce. Phillips was exceptional against the run last season and ranked No. 8 among defensive tackles in ESPN’s run stoppage win rate measure (41.2%).
What is the risk: Phillips has a relatively long injury history for a young player (26 years old). He missed 13 games in 2020 with a torn ACL and played most of the 2021 season with a torn PCL. He also tore his ACL at Stanford University. The Vikings won’t make his signing official until he passes a medical, as is standard procedure, but three significant knee injuries are definitely something to consider when signing a free agent. veteran. The good news is that Phillips has been able to play despite last season’s injury and should be in good health when he arrives at training camp this summer.