5 defensive sleepers the Vikings should target in 2021 free agency
By Dean Jones
Which free-agent defensive sleepers should the Minnesota Vikings to target in 2021?
It was clear from very early on during the 2020 season that the Minnesota Vikings were going to struggle on the defensive side of the ball.
Letting so many established starters go was always going to come with a period of transition that wasn’t aided by the absence of Danielle Hunter and Michael Pierce. But it’s hard not to look at the team’s current options and think much more is needed if Mike Zimmer’s men want to make a postseason return next time around.
Nobody will have been more embarrassed by the Vikings‘ defensive frailties than Zimmer, who has prided himself on dominant units, both during his time as a coordinator and as head coach in Minnesota.
He put a lot of the blame on himself last season, which is all part of keeping his players out of the firing line. However, considering the high stakes facing the experienced figure in 2021, there might be a little more urgency to bring in players who can make an instant impression.
The Vikings are expected to be right up against it from a salary-cap perspective despite the recent release of tight end Kyle Rudolph. More sacrifices will be made in the days leading up to free agency later this month and if they can do this without compromising the roster too much, this year is a good chance to acquire some veterans on the cheap given the current financial climate across the league.
Minnesota also has plenty of draft capital to call upon even without the second-rounder they gave up to acquire Yannick Ngakoue from the Jacksonville Jaguars. Relying on youngsters blending in takes time, which is something the current regime simply doesn’t have.
Those in power will have to get creative with limited financial resources at their disposal. With this in mind, who are five free-agent sleepers on defense that should be considered by the Vikings this year?
Sleeper No. 1
Rakeem Nunez-Roches – DT
2020 Team: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Rakeem Nunez-Roches heads into free agency on the back of a Super Bowl title with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and some solid film to call upon after doing a good job replacing stud defensive tackle Vita Vea during the campaign. This move is unlikely to cost much, which is a bonus for the Vikings considering their current financial predicament.
Nunez-Roches’ ability to stop the run is another positive he brings to the table. Tampa Bay has plenty of mouths to feed this offseason in a bid to keep their championship-winning roster together, so it might leave someone like Nunez-Roches on the outside looking in.
Michael Pierce is going to make a big difference on the interior in 2021, but the Vikings need someone productive alongside him and Nunez-Roches has proven more than capable of handling such a responsibility.