Vikings Sign Massive Run-Stuffer to New Deal in Minnesota

Kevin O'Connell

Getty Vikings coach Kevin O'Connell

The Minnesota Vikings made the first move in addressing their defense this offseason by fortifying their defensive front.

The Vikings announced on February 17 that they had re-signed defensive tackle Khyiris Tonga, who was set to become an exclusive rights free agent in March.

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.

Tonga put together a seven-week stretch of grading positively by Pro Football Focus and a four-week run of creating at least one QB pressure. Tonga has now been on the field for at least 25 snaps each of the last five games.

However, at 6-foot-4, 330 pounds, Tonga, the biggest player on the Vikings roster, made his impact felt in the run game first and foremost.

“I just think, and you guys probably feel it, too, but I just think he plays with a level of physicality in the run game — that knockback that you look for. It shows up on tape,” head coach Kevin O’Connell O’Connell said last December, per “You consistently see him splitting double teams, you consistently see him get push into people’s run games that allows E.K. (Eric Kendricks) and Jordan [Hicks] and Brian [Asamoah II] to go run and try to make tackles.

“The hardest jobs sometimes for those defensive linemen are transitioning from playing a gap mentality in the run game and trying to do their job to, ‘OK, it’s a play pass, or a dropback pass. Can I transition now to go try to get the quarterback?’ He’s showing some real flashes of that as well, so … you just see a little bit of growth every time he goes out, and he’s been a real plus for us and our defense,” O’Connell added.

KSTP’s Darren Wolfson found re-signing Tonga, along with swing tackle Blake Brandel, a steal for $940,000 on a one-year tender.

Khyiris Tonga Could Be in Line for a Starting Spot Next Season

While the Vikings’ finances remain murky, currently $23.3 million over the salary cap, Tonga is a contingency replacement for starting defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson.

Tomlinson is a pending free agent and is expected to fetch a lucrative deal in free agency that Minnesota may be unable to match.

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 for last season.

Khyiris Tonga Fits the Bill of What Brian Flores Will Need With Vikings

In his introductory media conference on February 15, new Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores revealed the types of players he looks for in his defense.

He didn’t name any players but did name a few characteristics that are fitting for Tonga.

“I think a lot of players that are here kind of fit the bill. Smart, tough, physical. Guys who love to play. Team first. You need dirty work guys on your team,” Flores said.

“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 added. “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.”

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