Vikings Veteran’s Change of Heart Paves Way for Contract Resolution

Kevin O'Connell, Vikings

Getty Head coach Kevin O'Connell of the Minnesota Vikings looks on during a game against the Chicago Bears in January 2023.

Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson showed a sign he’s willing to come back to the Vikings by delaying the expiration of his existing contract.

On Monday, Tomlinson and Patrick Peterson‘s deals were reported to have expired, sending two of the defense’s top performers to free agency.

However, ESPN’s Field Yates reported on February 22 that “Tomlinson’s deal was set to void in recent days, which would have pushed $7.5M of dead money onto their 2023 cap. The team & Tomlinson agreed to move the void date to 3/15. This buys more time for a possible extension that avoids all $7.5M hitting the 2023 cap.”

Yates’ report is a sign of good faith by Tomlinson that he wants to remain in Minnesota. The Vikings now have more time to negotiate with Tomlinson instead of him entering free agency — ultimately cutting all talks with the team until March 13, the start of the legal tampering period before free agency officially opens on March 15. They also avoided the brunt of the $7.5 million in dead cap that could come if Tomlinson is not signed to a new deal this offseason.

Tomlinson was primarily a nose tackle with the New York Giants before signing a two-year, $21 million deal with the Vikings in the 2021 offseason. He’s since moved to the three-technique and flashed his versatility as a pass-rusher. In 2022, Tomlinson posted three sacks and a career-high 30 pressures, which ranked fourth on the team despite Tomlinson missing five games this season due to a calf injury.

Former Vikings linebacker Ben Leber reacted to Yates’ report, tweeting that Tomlinson “was arguably the best player on the defense. I hope he comes back.”

Dalvin Tomlinson Fits Brian Flores’ Defensive Philosophy

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After finishing last season 28th in points and 31st in yards allowed, the Vikings defense is expected to see some wholesale changes to the starting unit that could see as many as nine new starters next season.

Minnesota’s hire of Brian Flores as defensive coordinator is a sign the Vikings are serious about rehauling defense. In his introductory press conference on February 15, Flores described that he’s looking for versatile players who are willing to take on any role asked of them and aren’t the type of star players that are above the team.

“All the things that you always hear, tough and smart and disciplined and physical,” Flores said. “I’m big on versatility, guys being able to play multiple spots. In order to do that, we’ve gotta get them coached up in those multiple spots.”

Tomlinson’s effectiveness in stopping the run and newfound role of rushing the passer makes him among several candidates who could stay and help Flores transform the defense.

“Those dirty work guys who don’t get as much media love as some of the other players. Those guys who are team-first and selfless,” Flores said. “I’m looking for guys like that. Guys who, in a world where everybody wants to be the center of attention, those guys who want to do what’s best for the group. I think we’ve got a lot of those types of guys on our roster already.”

Vikings Run Defense Was Surprisingly Reliable in 2022

While the Vikings’ defensive woes were a pain point for the majority of the 2022 season, the ground game wasn’t what was most exploitable for the opposing offense.

Minnesota ranked 20th in yards allowed and 18th in attempts, per Pro Football Reference. Those aren’t encouraging figures but compared to pass defense, there’s a clear trend in how offense’s attacked the Vikings.

Opposing quarterbacks threw the fourth-most passes against the Vikings, who allowed the second-most passing yards in the league. Teams attacked Minnesota through the air, often taking east underneath throws that were gifted to them by Ed Donatell’s soft zone coverage.

Tomlinson was a vital piece to the run defense remaining at least respectable last season, and his pass-rushing just so happens to be a plus.

Pro Football Focus (PFF) ranked Tomlinson the 18th best free agent of the 2023 offseason, projecting him to strike a three-year, $35.3 million deal.

“He’s a better fit as a zero- or one-technique, with his 55 tackles for loss or no gain since 2017 the third-most among interior players and with his pass-rush upside better deployed as an added benefit but not the primary feature,” PFF wrote.

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JR & The Boys
JR & The Boys
3 months ago

Maybe they can work something out, sounds like he is the type of player we need.

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