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Bleacher Report – Vikings

If Vikings want D-line rotation, solid role players still remain in free agency

By Matthew Coller

With Sheldon Richardson in the mix, the Minnesota Vikings’ defensive line has a good argument for being the best in the NFL.

But the team that holds the current title for top D-line in the league, the Philadelphia Eagles, still has impressive depth up front despite losing Vinny Curry and Beau Allen in free agency.

Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said that he would like to copycat the rotation that the Eagles used in 2017.

“I think the biggest thing you’re seeing in the NFL now is the defensive line rotation to keep these guys fresh throughout the season,” Spielman said. “I give Philadelphia a lot of credit, they used an eight-man rotation last year and you could see the results of that. If we can keep building the depth on the defensive line that will pay dividends down the road.”

Last week, the Seattle Seahawks signed former Vikings Tom Johnson and Shamar Stephen, leaving Jaleel Johnson as the only backup interior defensive lineman. On the edges, Tashawn Bower, Stephen Weatherly and Brian Robison make up the fill-ins for Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter. Combined Weatherly and Bower have 1.0 career sack. Robison can still be effective – he picked up 4.0 sacks last season, but he is also 34 years old.

If the Vikings want to look to the free agent market for rotational pass rushers or interior role players, the free agent market still has several D-linemen who could make a difference.

Three rotational pass rushers top the list: Kony Ealy, Junior Galette and Connor Barwin.

Ealy had only one sack with the New York Jets last season, but combined for 14.0 sacks in three years with the Carolina Panthers. His sack total may have been deceiving. According to Pro Football Focus, Ealy still registered 25 quarterback hurries on 293 pass rush snaps.

Galette, who reportedly has drawn interest from Cleveland, has pass rush numbers similar to some of the top free agents. In 2015 and 2016, he was one of the NFL’s best rushers with 22.0 sacks, but last year he dropped all the way down to 3.0 sacks. However, he created pressure on 11.9 percent of rushes, which was the second best rate of any free agent. The chances of luring Galette are not as high. He will likely be looking for a bigger role.

Barwin took down opposing quarterbacks five times last year on 395 rush snaps and added six QB hits and 19 hurries for the Los Angeles Rams.

There are a handful of other proven players on the market including Chicago’s Robert Ayers, former Chiefs rusher Tamba Hali, Tennessee’s Karl Klug, long-time Carolina Panther Charles Johnson and Atlanta’s Courtney Upshaw.

On the interior, two run-stuffing defensive tackles could make a big difference for the Vikings: Alan Branch and Bennie Logan.

Branch played a significant role on the 2016 New England Patriots, The 6-foot-6, 325-pound nose tackle saw his role diminish last year, but he was still effective against the run. Branch could provide depth in case Linval Joseph had to miss time and play a role in run situations.

Logan ranked 17th in the NFL by Pro Football Focus metrics in Run Stop Percentage. He is the best remaining free agent in this category. At 28, he could be a cog for multiple years.

The Vikings do have a tendency to find under-the-radar defensive linemen who fit Mike Zimmer’s scheme, but if they are looking to add at least one more proven player, the free agent market still offers a handful of them.

The post If Vikings want D-line rotation, solid role players still remain in free agency appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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