The Minnesota Vikings continue to make moves in free agency to bolster the team’s defense.
After agreeing to terms with former Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Harrison Phillips on March 14, the Vikings filled the void left at linebacker by Anthony Barr and Nick Vigil by signing former Arizona Cardinals linebacker Jordan Hicks.
“Jordan Hicks agreed to a two-year deal, per a source,” Chad Graff of The Athletic reported on March 15. He gives the Vikings a second middle linebacker for their new 3-4 defense where he can line up next to Eric Kendricks.”
NFL insider Adam Caplan reported that Hicks’ two-year deal is worth $10 million with escalators that could increase his earnings to $12 million with $6.5 million guaranteed.
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Hicks Has Something to Prove
Hicks, 29, posted a career-high four sacks and tallied the second-most tackles (116) for the Cardinals in 2021. He was one of the best pass-rushing linebackers in the league last year and has proven durable, not missing a start since 2018.
A 2015 third-round pick out of Texas, Hicks was “pissed off” about his status in Arizona after being told first-round rookie Zaven Collins would start over him, per ESPN. Hicks requested a trade that never materialized, and he went on to start all 17 games in 2021.
Hicks told AZCardinals.com that he tried to “control what he could control” when he learned a rookie who had never played an NFL snap would be taking his starting job, and he admitted it is much easier said than done.
“That was something going through OTAs and going through the whole offseason, I needed time to process and get to that point to be able to come in with a smile on my face,” Hicks said in December. “It’s not easy. And it’s not something that happens overnight. But when you get faced with a situation, there comes a crossroads, ‘Am I going to be this person? Or that person?’ ”
“I felt disrespected, right? Simple as that. I came in with a point to prove,” Hicks said, adding that he didn’t feel “vindicated” by remaining the team’s starting middle linebacker, but a reassertion of what’s earned him recognition as the “heart of the defense” by future Hall of Famer Chandler Jones.
“I think it shows the mindset, the mental toughness that has been brought forth to continue to push with a smile on my face,” Hicks said.
Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury lauded Hicks for how he handled the situation.
“If I had a son, I’d want my son to handle it the way that he did. The professionalism, the poise, he just didn’t blink and kept doing his job and showed everybody how good he is,” Kingsbury said, per AZCardinals.com.
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Hicks Has Regressed But Proven Reliable as a Veteran
Hicks made his mark on the NFL for the first four seasons of his career with the Philadelphia Eagles — particularly his sophomore season in 2016.
Showing a ballhawk prowess in coverage, Hicks snared five picks and defended 11 passes, earning an 88.4 Pro Football Focus (PFF) defensive grade that season, ranking third among linebackers. He also posted an NFL-best 91.1 coverage grade among linebackers.
Hicks suffered an ACL injury in 2017 that limited his third NFL season to just 17 games. He missed four games with a calf strain in 2018 that put his durability into question.
But since then, Hicks has made 51 consecutive starts, the third-longest streak among linebackers in the NFL.
While Hicks has passed his athletic prime, he’s shown the ability to play any linebacker spot and can still get after the quarterback and provide veteran poise in coverage.