Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer had to humbly eat his words last season.
After declining that he hasn’t had a bad defense in his career, Zimmer admitted last year’s unit was the worst he’s ever had after injuries and offseason departures depleted the Vikings defense, which finished the 2020 season ranked 29th in points allowed.
“Yeah this is a bad defense,” Zimmer said after Minnesota allowed the most points to an opponent since 1963 in a 52-33 throttling by the New Orleans Saints on Christmas Day, which officially eliminated the Vikings from playoff contention. “Worst one I’ve ever had.”
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NFL Executives Blast Vikings for Patrick Peterson Signing
The Vikings spent $46.1 million in guarantees on outside free agents and restructuring Anthony Barr to correct the team’s most glaring issue last season.
However, several NFL executives found Minnesota’s offseason signings troubling, which could leave Zimmer “wearing the headset in free agency,” The Athletic’s Mike Sando wrote.
Sando spoke with several unnamed NFL executives to assess all 32 teams’ free-agency moves.
One executive expressed that signing “risky vets” like Patrick Peterson instead of coaching up the 2020 draft class was a mistake.
“Zimmer’s first mistake was saying he’d never had a bad defense,” the exec said, per Sando. “His second mistake was going for the quick fix in free agency with risky vets instead of coaching those young guys they brought in. They run that complex scheme and when it doesn’t work, it’s the execution, so they sign vets.”
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Other Executives Haven’t Counted Zimmer Out
While the one executive’s critique of the signing of Petersons sounds like a condemnation of the team’s prospects this season, it fails to acknowledge the complexities of Zimmer’s scheme that require veteran studies.
The additions of Peterson and Alexander proved to be vital after the news that 2020 first-round pick Jeff Gladney could face time in prison after turning himself in for a felony charge on Monday.
The underlying improvement of the team’s defense may not be its free-agent adds but the return of Danielle Hunter, Michael Pierce and Barr.
“Signing Patrick Peterson, they are basically saying they struck out last year, drafting those young corners,” one evaluator told Sando. “But the big thing is, they get Danielle Hunter back from injury, and that changes their pass-rush.”
Here’s the remainder of Sando’s assessment of how the league executives see the Vikings offseason:
Peterson turns 31 in July and owns 154 starts. There is some concern he hasn’t been the same since serving a six-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
“They paid an old, declining corner and they paid a nose tackle,” an exec said. “I’m not a fan, but that’s what Zimmer wants to do with his defense, and he has had great defenses. Maybe this is what stirs the drink.”
Zimmer brushed off criticisms that Minnesota did not do anything to help its offense, specifically up front.
“You do need to get quality players and not just grab the first offensive linemen that are willing to go to you,” an exec said. “The fact they didn’t sign offensive linemen, I don’t think that is an indictment.”
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