Vikings Named Contender to Land $16 Million Edge Rusher

Leonard Floyd, Rams

Getty Outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, formerly of the Los Angeles Rams, celebrates after Super Bowl LVI in February 2022.

The Minnesota Vikings are short at a few spots across the roster, though most notably at the position of pass rusher.

As three-time Pro Bowler Danielle Hunter angles for a new deal, Minnesota must decide if the one-year, $13 million addition of Marcus Davenport is enough to meet its needs off the edge. After a career-worst season that saw Davenport tally just 0.5 sacks in 15 games for the New Orleans Saints in 2022, the answer has to be leaning toward “no.”

If that is, in fact, the pervasive feeling in the Vikings front office then the only option is to pursue an edge rusher via free agency. There are a handful of quality names left and the one most suited to how Minnesota will play defense in 2023 is Leonard Floyd, formerly of the Los Angeles Rams.

Kristopher Knox of Bleacher Report on Friday, May 26, dubbed the Vikings among the top two fits for Floyd, along with the NFC North Division rival Detroit Lions.

Leonard Floyd Fits With Vikings as Replacement for Za’Darius Smith

Leonard Floyd

Getty Outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, formerly of the Los Angeles Rams, tackles running back Isiah Pacheco of the Kansas City Chiefs during an NFL game in November 2022.

Knox noted surprise that Floyd has yet to find a new home after three successful seasons with the Rams, during which he amassed 29 sacks and 98 quarterback pressures, per Pro Football Reference.

Leonard Floyd is another pass-rusher who was productive in 2022 and who should find a new team in short order. … Floyd could help virtually any team in need of pass-rush assistance.

[The Vikings’] defense ranked 31st in yards allowed and recorded 38 sacks in 2022. Minnesota also recently traded away Za’Darius Smith, who recorded 10 sacks and 37 quarterback pressures last year.

Floyd could be a valuable replacement for Smith, and he has some familiarity with the coaching staff. Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell was the Rams offensive coordinator in 2020 and 2021, Floyd’s first two years with the franchise.

Floyd is an outside linebacker, the same as Smith, and is a natural fit in the Vikings’ base 3-4 defensive scheme. Beyond that, new coordinator Brian Flores is keen on blitzing opposing quarterbacks at a high rate, a style that Floyd fits perfectly.

Vikings Can Clear Enough Cap Space to Sign Leonard Floyd

Deebo Samuel

Getty Former Los Angeles Rams outside linebacker Leonard Floyd pursues San Francisco 49ers running back Deebo Samuel during an NFL game in October 2022.

The issue for the Vikings in bringing Floyd to Minnesota, as it has been with most free agent prospects this offseason, comes down to money.

Floyd played two seasons of a four-year, $64 million extension in Los Angeles that paid him $16 million annually. He is now on the wrong side of 30, but has yet to show signs of slowing down. In fact, the three years Floyd played with the Rams were all better than any of his first four campaigns with the Chicago Bears to start his career.

Pass rushers come at a premium in the NFL, which adds to the intrigue around why Floyd continues to find himself a free agent as June approaches. He had no significant injury problems in L.A. and hasn’t missed a regular season game over the last five years for any reason.

Spotrac projects Floyd’s market value at $13.7 million annually over a three-year contract. A deal at that level might price the Vikings out, as they currently have access to just shy of $9.6 million in salary cap space and must consider a long-term offer for Hunter.

However, the likelihood is that Minnesota either releases or trades running back Dalvin Cook after June 1, which will save the team between $9 million-$11 million, depending on which decision it makes. Should the Vikings clear that space, an edge rusher like Floyd would presumably be near the top of their list of free agent priorities.

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