Which linebackers could help the Vikings in 2022?
There are plenty of ways the Vikings can get help in the middle of the defense this offseason. The 2022 NFL Draft class should have plenty of athletic freaks that are ready to take the NFL by storm. There are also a handful of free agents that could fetch a pretty penny, which honestly might be worth the risk from Minnesota.
Moving Kendricks’ money to get a replacement that is a bit younger would hurt the ol’ heart, but that’s part of the business. The Vikings have to consider all options at this point.
Nakobe Dean (NFL Draft)
Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean is one of the top linebackers in the draft and could be had at the end of the first round or even into the second if things fall in Minnesota’s favor. The talent on the defensive side of the ball in the upcoming draft is going to force some stars down the board.
Dean fits more of the Barr role as a weak-side defender that can be a menace against the run. He does a good job of reading and reacting and that helps him tremendously in all facets of the game, which is what the Vikings need most right now. Dean is going to be a reliable defender for a long time.
Christian Harris (NFL Draft)
A bit of a forgotten star, Christian Harris is going to prove a lot of people wrong in the NFL. He is a space-eater and coverage weapon in the middle of the defense for Alabama and has all of the tools to be a star at the next level.
Harris has played the MIKE, WILL, and even in the slot at Alabama, showing his versatility and speed as he flies around the field. The Vikings could seamlessly transition from Kendricks to Harris over the next two seasons and not miss a step.
Devin Lloyd (NFL Draft)
No player in the country has done more for his draft stock than Utah linebacker Devin Lloyd. He slowly emerged as the nation’s top linebacker and turned Utah’s season around with so many heads-up plays.
In 2021, Lloyd racked up 107 tackles, four interceptions, and two touchdowns from the defensive side of the ball. He also added 7.0 sacks and a forced fumble in his 13 games for the Utes this season.
It would require a first-round pick to bring him in, but Devin Lloyd should be atop the Vikings’ wishlist this offseason.
Jayon Brown (Free Agency)
If the Vikings want to keep it within the NFL, they can resort to free agency. Jayon Brown, another UCLA product at linebacker, is set to become a free agent this offseason. Brown signed a one-year deal to stay in Tennessee during the 2021 offseason, but he is hitting the market once again in 2022.
He has spent portions of the past two seasons on the injured reserve, which should drive his price down a bit in free agency. Brown played 14 games in 2019 and put up a ton of numbers in the process. He recorded 105 tackles, 8 PBUs, and an interception that season but has not been the same player since.
If the price is relatively low, the Vikings should kick the tires on Brown this offseason. He could be a nice replacement for Kendricks with plenty of starting experience.
Anthony Walker Jr. (Free Agency)
After spending his first four seasons with Indianapolis, Anthony Walker Jr. joined the Browns in 2021 and has continued to be a tackling machine. He has never recorded less than 92 tackles in a season as a starter, including 97 tackles already this season in just 11 games.
Walker is a cheap option that can come in and help right away. He is not going to be a game-wrecker by any means, but Walker is fully capable of being a second or third linebacker that impacts the run game.