The Minnesota Vikings have filled out some of the open depth spots on their roster by signing back players from the 2019 roster like Ameer Abdullah, Dakota Dozier and Brett Jones while adding outside free agents Tajae Sharpe and Anthony Zettel.
But they still have open roles that will either need to be filled in the draft or via free agency. One area that has numerous quality veterans is defensive end, a spot vacated by Everson Griffen, who announced he will not be returning to Minnesota. Let’s have a look at players who could take his spot as a veteran pass rusher to combined with up-and-coming defensive lineman Ifeadi Odenigbo in 2020.
The soon-to-be 31-year-old defensive end has been remarkably consistent during his nine-year career, playing at least 13 games in each season and producing between 4.5 and 8.0 sacks in each of the last five seasons. He has an impressive history of pressuring the quarterback, ranking in the top 20 in 2017 and 2018 and then registering a solid 42 pressures in 378 pass rush snaps last season (per PFF).
Wake’s agent announced on Twitter that he is still interested in playing at age 38. That might sound nutty but in nine games last season he was effective as a situational rusher, creating 31 pressures on 181 pass rush snaps and picking up 2.5 sacks. That’s more pressures than Stephen Weatherly with more than 100 fewer snaps. Naturally durability would be a concern but the upside of a third down rusher who can help show younger defensive ends the way could yield positive results.
Clayborn had as many QB pressures last season as Jadeveon Clowney in 99 fewer pass rush snaps. In the twilight of his career, the 31-year-old has become one of the league’s best situational rushers, creating 58 pressures for the Falcons in 2017, 48 for the Super Bowl-winning Patriots in 2018 and returning to Atlanta with 48 more last year. He also made just $2 million for his services in 2019.
In ’17 Curry was an absolute force for the Eagles, creating 62 pressures, including 21 QB hits. He hasn’t gotten back to that point in the last two seasons — one in which he spent with Tampa Bay and only pressured the QB 24 times. But last year he got back to normal with 44 pressures on 275 pass rush snaps and graded by PFF standards as the 15th best rusher in the league, just behind Calais Campbell. At 32, he still appears to have plenty in the tank.
The 37-year-old Minnesota native got his second Super Bowl ring with the Kansas City Chiefs after being let go midseason by Arizona. Suggs continued to defy time with 46 pressures on 502 pass rush snaps and totaled 6.5 sacks. The seven-time Pro Bowler might be looking for more money to return than the Vikings can afford for the position but if he’s interested in coming back to his home state, the All-Pro would be a fit.
While there have been bumps along the road for the 34-year-old defensive end, he still continues to be very productive. The powerful rusher produced 42 pressures between the Patriots and Cowboys last season and is just one year removed from a 78-pressure, double-digit sack season in Philadelphia in 2018. His ability to play three downs if needed makes Bennett more valuable than other situational rushers. Last year he carried a cap hit of just $2.6 million.
Once upon a time McPhee gave the Vikings nightmares as a Chicago Bear but recently he’s struggled to play a full season. Still when healthy McPhee can cause problems for opposing quarterbacks, picking up 14 pressures and three sacks on 174 pass rush snaps last year in seven games.
Another oft-injured defensive end who has given the Vikings problems in the past, Ansah picked up 22 pressures on 253 snaps as a Seahawk in ’19.