Filling the Vikings’ Needs: Defensive Tackle

Dec 23, 2012; Houston, TX, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Kevin Williams (93) against the Houston Texans during the first quarter at Reliant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s continue our series examining the Vikings’ major offseason needs. Last time we covered wide receiver. Now let’s move to the other side of the ball and cover defensive tackle. First off, a rundown of the Vikes’ current personnel.

Under contract for 2013: Christian Ballard, Fred Evans, Letroy Guion, Kevin Williams

Signed to a reserve/futures deal: Chase Baker

There’s a little bit of a situation here. Kevin Williams is under contract but I don’t think anyone expects that he will be brought back for 2013 on his current deal. The $8 million cap number is just too big for him. He’s not worth that. And he’s got the same cap number for 2014. Makes no sense to keep him for that number. So there will have to be a re-negotiation. Williams has already said that he’s amenable to reworking his deal. So we’ll have to see how that works out. The Vikings have been fairly successful in recent years in reworking big, bloated veteran contracts. My feeling is that Williams will still be in the mix in 2013. Obviously he is nowhere near elite at defensive tackle anymore. He’s still good but his skills are only going to erode from here. The Vikes will need to rotate him out more and more as time goes on. Christian Ballard is the logical guy to pick up those snaps but Ballard has shown only inconsistent production thus far. I realize he hasn’t gotten a great chance but there could be a reason he hasn’t gotten a great chance. Point being, an upgrade in talent seems necessary. Let’s look at who’s out there both in free agency and the draft.

Free Agents

Henry Melton  Really came into his own for the Bears last year at the 3-tech. Obviously fits the Vikings’ scheme being a Cover-2 guy. Right now he’s sort of in limbo with the Bears overhauling their personnel and maybe moving away from the Cover-2. At 26 he’s right there in the correct age bracket. He could slide right in and take over for Kevin Williams. Be your starter for the next 5-7 years. But he’s going to be pricey. Look for his price to rise as teams like Dallas, who are switching to the 4-3 under Monte Kiffin and will be looking for a three-tech DT, enter the fray. I don’t see the Vikes going after this guy hard even though on the surface he seems a perfect fit.

Randy Starks  Starks got a year under his belt in the 4-3 after Miami switched. Miami has a lot of free agents and might not have enough money to pay this guy. He’s a penetrating guy who also plays the run well. He’s 29.

Desmond Bryant  Probably not leaving Oakland. Highest ranked free agent interior lineman according to PFF.

Vance Walker  Rotational guy in Atlanta who could hit the market. Might be a nice low-cost signing. Solid player who would beef up the depth. Not a dominating force by any stretch.

Sammie Hill  Another rotational guy. Decent pass rush skills.

Richard Seymour  O-L-D

Jason Jones  What the Vikings really need to do is pick up more injured former Seattle Seahawks. Give this guy a bunch of guaranteed money for no reason.

Chris Baker  If you want to switch from the penetrating nose tackle concept back to the big beefy giant anchor nose tackle idea, there’s Chris Baker. He’s 25. He’s in the 330 range. He’s a bit of a prankster. He is not Pat Williams.

Terrance Knighton  Off-field issues. Went into a contract year and played so bad he lost his starting job. Pass.

Glenn Dorsey  This is a guy you have to be at least a little bit intrigued by. He was drafted way high but never lived up to the potential. But here’s the thing. He was picked to be a 4-3 guy and ended up playing five-tech in the 3-4 and it just never worked for him. So now his rookie deal has expired and he’s kind of floating around out there. How about pick this guy up on the relative cheap, put a few pounds on him and plug in him at 4-3 nose where he belongs? He’d be a better run defender than Letroy Guion I bet. And you can rotate him out on passing downs in favor of Everson Griffen or Fred Evans.

Draft Prospects

Star Lotulelei  The #1 defensive tackle prospect by consensus. Vikes won’t have a shot.

Johnathan Hankins  Another big old strong, fast guy. Probably be gone by the time the Vikings draft though.

Sheldon Richardson  He has a great motor, guys. That’s what is says everywhere. Literally every scouting report. Motor motor motor. He’s in the mix.

Kawann Short  Good pass rusher. Knows how to beat blockers. Vikings could use more pass rush up the middle. I like him. I want him on my team.

Jonathan Jenkins  Big giant 3-4 nose guy. Not really in the picture.

Sharrif Floyd  Gil Brandt has already given this guy to the Vikings in his first mock. He’s one of those athletic penetrating tackles the Vikings seem to like so much. Another motor guy. One to watch.

Sylvester Williams  Highly talented young kid who hasn’t played a ton of ball. One of those late bloomer sorts who could really be a steal. Another guy to keep an eye on. Probably put up huge combine numbers and leap into the top 15.

A lot of intriguing options in there. If the Vikes decide to go DT with their first rounder, they can find a talented guy. If they go free agency, I think there are some lower-cost guys that are worth taking a look at. With Kevin Williams getting up there in years, it seems they have to make a move on that position this year, find themselves a good draft pick or a younger free agent they can lock up for a little while. The interior of the line really isn’t there right now in my mind. Not enough push from those guys. Right now they have a bunch of decent rotational guys but no really dominating defensive tackle force. They need that to take some pressure off the linebackers and augment their good outside rush.

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  • Fandamonia

    A strong interior push does wonders for the CB and linebackers as well. EJ was a very good middle linebacker but was helped by Pat Williams being able to take two guys with him. Rodgers, Stafford and Cutler all have problems (especially Rodgers) when the middle of the pocket collapses early. I honestly think this is the most important position to upgrade. Even more so than WR.

  • http://www.facebook.com/wludford Warren Ludford

    Vikings could pick up a very good DT in the 1st round if they choose. Kawann Short and Jonathan Hankins are both good choices if they fall to #23. Really have to go with the best player available though.