Vikings Sign Promising Ex-Bears DL Ahead of Matchup

Matt Eberflus

Getty Matt Eberflus and the Chicago Bears Head to Minnesota to face the Vikings Week 5.

Khyiris Tonga is back in the NFC North.

The Minnesota Vikings have signed the former Chicago Bears 2021 seventh-round draft pick off of the Atlanta Falcons‘ practice squad, according to the NFL’s October 4 waiver wire.

The Bears waived the second-year defensive tackle at the end of August, when they claimed six players off waivers, including former Vikings defensive end Armon Watts, who essentially took Tonga’s place on the roster. The Falcons picked the 26-year-old defender up shortly after the Bears released him, and he has remained on their active roster ever since.

Now, he’ll be on Minnesota’s 53-man squad when the Bears roll in to town Week 5.

Tonga Showed Promise as Rookie in 2021

In college at BYU, Tonga amassed 130 total tackles (14.5 for loss), 7.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and 12 pass breakups in 47 career games. The Bears selected him in the seventh round (250th overall) and he wound up playing a decent amount as a rookie, appearing in 15 of 17 games, starting two.

He finished with one QB pressure and one QB hurry in 79 pass rush snaps, per PFF, also accumulating 24 total tackles (one for loss) and a fumble recovery.

Despite showing flashes as a rookie, the 6-foot-2, 338-pound Tonga was let go by the team’s new regime, as head coach Matt Eberflus installed a different 4-3 defense that better suited Watts than Tonga.

The opportunity for a revenge game now awaits Tonga, but he’s not the only one with a chance to get back at his former team.

Watts Will Have Opportunity for Payback Game Against His Former Team

Watts, 26, was a sixth-round pick for Minnesota out of the University of Arkansas in 2019. He appeared in 40 games at defensive tackle for the Vikings over his three seasons with the team, starting 10. He amassed 98 total tackles (three for loss), 13 QB hits, a pass defensed, three forced fumbles and 7.0 sacks during his time in Minnesota, and his release was somewhat of a surprise when it came on August 30.

“I am pretty sure everyone in the state (of Minnesota) was surprised,” Watts told Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune about being released by the Vikings. “It definitely was a letdown, but it’s part of the game. I had to adapt fast coming over here to Chicago. You know, everything happens for a reason, so I am excited to be here.”

Watts played 255 run defense snaps and 414 pass rush snaps for Minnesota last year, finishing with 33 total pressures, six QB hits, 22 hurries and 5.0 sacks, per PFF. He’s off to a solid start in Chicago, too, netting three pressures and three hurries in 42 pass rush snaps.

This will be the first time the 6-foot-5, 307-pound Watts will square off against his former team. The D-lineman told Biggs that he took his release hard, so it will be interesting to see how he responds when given his opportunities.

“I’m not blind. If I’m with the second or third team maybe you see it coming,” Watts told Biggs. “But it hit hard for me, especially being there going on four years (and) producing like I did last year. I am here with the Bears now, I am still in the NFC North and I am excited.”

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