5 free agents the Vikings should aggressively pursue in 2023

(Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images) Mecole Hardman
(Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images) Mecole Hardman /
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Minnesota Vikings
(Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports) Leighton Vander Esch /

 Leighton Vander Esch – LB

Eric Kendricks will go down as one of the most productive Vikings defenders in recent memory. But for the first time in his illustrious career, the linebacker looked like a liability more often than not in 2022.

Maybe the transition to a 3-4 base defense was something Kendricks couldn’t adjust to effectively at this stage of his career. Couple this with the cap savings involved, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Vikings go in a different direction before free agency.

Jordan Hicks also faces a nervous wait before his future is determined after underwhelming in his first season with the franchise. If one or both are removed from the roster, the second-level interior will be among the team’s biggest needs.

Someone like Leighton Vander Esch ticks all the boxes, especially if Ed Donatell is replaced by someone that reverts back to a 4-3 scheme. The Boise State product got his career back on track this season with some eye-catching displays, bringing explosiveness and aggressiveness that were sorely lacking from the player in 2021.

Whether the Vikings are in a position to afford Vander Esch is anyone’s guess. However, the Dallas Cowboys aren’t exactly flush with cash themselves, so a window of opportunity could arise at some stage.