The Minnesota Vikings are trying to round out their roster ahead of the season opener next weekend but are struggling to do so under the restraints of a tight budget.
The organization has been in touch with former Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh about joining the team, though Suh’s request for a $9 million annual salary makes the prospect of a deal more than a little difficult.
The Vikings have just shy of $2.5 million in salary cap space available as of Tuesday, September 6, per Over The Cap. There is a compromise to be made in Minnesota, however, without clearing more salary. The answer potentially lies with free agent defensive lineman Malcom Brown, a former first-round draft pick of the New England Patriots.
Malcom Brown Available to Vikings at Discount Compared to Suh
The Vikings front office made an unexpected move on August 30, cutting starting defensive lineman Armon Watts to clear the way toward their initial 53-man roster.
With Watts now a member of the Chicago Bears and out of the picture in Minnesota, the need for more help along the defensive front is paramount. Kristopher Knox of Bleacher Report suggested on Tuesday that the best answer may be Brown, after he was cut by the Jacksonville Jaguars earlier this preseason.
Last season, the Vikings ranked 26th in rushing yards allowed, 29th in yards per carry surrendered and 24th in points allowed.
Brown is a seven-year veteran who has been a full-time starter since his 2015 rookie campaign with the Patriots. He started all 17 games with Jacksonville in 2021, finishing with 57 tackles, two sacks and four tackles for loss.
While finding a starting-caliber interior defender on the cheap is rare, the Vikings could be fortunate. Brown was released with $4.6 million in dead money on his contract, which could allow him to accept a more team friendly agreement for the 2022 season. If Minnesota can make a deal work, it should jump at the chance to add Brown before Week 1.
Jacksonville’s decision to waive Brown was somewhat curious considering his production, particularly against the run. Pro Football Focus ranked the defensive tackle sixth in the league in run-stop percentage among players at the position who lined up at least 100 times on rushing downs.
Vikings Pass Rush Looks Formidable With Hunter, Smith on Edge
Brown’s cost/value ratio compared to Suh’s makes him a logical choice for the Vikings, while his effectiveness against the run makes sense in Minnesota’s 3-4 defensive scheme. Brown’s strength would theoretically complement the revamped pass rush the Vikings’ prioritized during the offseason.
The team brought in pass rusher Za’Darius Smith, who was released by the Green Bay Packers — the NFC North Division rival against whom the Vikings will open the regular season on Sunday, September 11. Smith joins Danielle Hunter on the edge, potentially creating one of the better pass rushing duos in the NFL.
Hunter was a two-time Pro Bowler in 2018 and 2019 before injuries robbed him of his 2020 campaign and allowed him to start just seven contests last year. Smith was also hampered by injuries last season, appearing in just one regular season game after two consecutive Pro-Bowl campaigns of his own in 2019 and 2020, per Pro Football Reference.