Vikings Make Final Decision on $21 Million Veteran, 8-Time Pro Bowler

Kevin O'Connell

Getty Head coach Kevin O'Connell of the Minnesota Vikings.

The Minnesota Vikings have officially let two of their core defenders test free agency this offseason.

Starting cornerback Patrick Peterson‘s and defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson‘s contracts both voided on February 20, sending both veterans to free agency next month, per Over The Cap. By not re-signing or restructuring either veteran, $8.25 million of dead cap from their previous contracts will count against the 2023 salary cap.

There is still a possibility both veterans return. However, Tomlinson’s returning is unlikely given that he already is due the remaining $7.5 million guaranteed in the two-year, $21 million he signed in 2021. At this point, he would still need to sign a new deal and should garner plenty of interest in free agency. (Pro Football Focus projects Tomlinson to strike an $11.8 million a year deal.)

Peterson is still in familiar territory, reaching free agency for a third consecutive offseason. He’s expressed interest in returning to Minnesota; however, he may not be a fit in new defensive coordinator Brian Flores’ scheme.

Peterson is owed a $750,000 prorated bonus from the Vikings this season regardless of whether he returns to Minnesota or lands with a new team.

Analyst Predicts Patrick Peterson’s Departure After Brian Flores Signing

Flores will attempt to turn around a Vikings defense that ranked 28th in points and 31st in yards allowed last season.

The staples of Flores’ defenses often involve blitz-heavy looks that require more man coverage by cornerbacks.

For that reason, Matthew Coller believes Peterson is done in Minnesota, he asserted on the February 6 episode of the “Purple Insider” podcast.

“This probably means that Patrick Peterson is done in Minnesota,” Coller said, referencing Flores’ penchant for aggressive play-calling that requires cornerbacks to play man coverage. “I just don’t know if he can play man over 17 games like he did in the past.”

The eight-time Pro Bowler thrived last season when he had more opportunities to sit back and read the quarterback in zone coverage.

Flores will likely demand speedier cornerbacks who can run with receivers without needing to sit out of some plays.

Vikings Re-Sign Potential Dalvin Tomlinson Replacement

The Vikings made a move on February 17 that may have been the writing on the wall for Tomlinson.

Minnesota re-signed Khyiris Tonga to a $940,000 single-year tender, Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press reported.

A 2021 seventh-round pick by the Chicago Bears, Tonga was a cast away amid the regime change in Chicago — a move that former Bears Pro Bowl defensive tackle Akiem Hicks said was a mistake. Tonga was plucked off the Atlanta Falcons practice squad in October and became an immediate impact contributor for the Vikings.

He put together a seven-week stretch of positive grades by Pro Football Focus (PFF) and a four-week run of creating at least one QB pressure.

Tonga finished with an impressive 77.8 overall grade by PFF thank ranks 14th among interior defensive linemen. Tomlinson finished one rank below Tonga, posting a 77.0 PFF grade last season.

While Tonga played 300 snaps compared to Tomlinson’s 604 snaps, he proved to be an adequate replacement in the lineup that could lead to a starting role for Tonga or at the very least a foundational rotational piece to replacing Tomlinson.

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