It has been, to say the least, an interesting off-season for the Vikings‘ four starting defensive linemen.
Among the four, Ray Edwards has had perhaps the most tumultuous few months. When the old CBA expired, Edwards found himself being demoted from unrestricted free agent to restricted free agent, meaning he could not negotiate freely with other teams. This plus the Vikings’ unwillingness to talk long-term deal put Ray in a foul mood.
Edwards responded to his circumstances by sitting out of OTAs and minicamp. He was finally forced to sign the one-year tender the Vikings offered, and has made no further noise about holding out.
To make matters perhaps somewhat more annoying for Edwards, the Vikings spent a draft pick on USC DE Everson Griffen, who is now signed and headed to camp, and has enough talent to warrant a serious look.
While Edwards was busy grumbling about his contract issues, Pat Williams and Kevin Williams spent their summer vacation wondering if the NFL would finally win the right to suspend them four games for violating the banned substance policy.
As it turns out, Pat and Kevin are still in the clear. Until the next appeal or other act of legal maneuvering.
To cover themselves in the event Pat and Kevin should have to sit, the Vikings re-signed Fred Evans and Jimmy Kennedy. This gives the Vikes a formidable four-man tackle rotation, and two pretty decent guys to choose from when Pat retires and they need a new starter.
And then, of course, there was Jared Allen.
His off-season featured a traumatic mullet-shearing. A wedding. And this:
He survived it all, and now he’s back in camp ready to resume his role as one of the most fearsome edge pass rushers in all of football.
Like last year, the line figures to be the strength of the defense. And it may need to be even stronger this year, given the direction the secondary has been heading.
Ray Edwards is the key guy in my mind. He played a few good games last year, most notably against the Cowboys in the playoffs, but he was wildly inconsistent. If he slips up even a little in camp, Everson Griffen or Brian Robison could have a chance at taking over his spot. Whoever wins the left end job needs to be consistently strong this season, to take pressure off Jared Allen.
On the inside, it’s all about working out the rotation. Pat Williams, who is coming into camp in better shape than the last few years, should be a starter, but his time on the field figures to be reduced no matter what happens. Evans and Kennedy will compete to win the playing time Williams surrenders.
Jayme Mitchell, Mike Montgomery, Letroy Guion and Tremaine Johnson will battle it out for whatever spots remain.