Vikings Cut Veteran CB to Make Room for New Nose Tackle

Kevin O'Connell, Minnesota Vikings

Getty Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O'Connell.

The Minnesota Vikings brought back defensive James Lynch at the cost of releasing veteran cornerback Joejuan Williams in a corresponding move on May 14, according to the league transaction wire.

A 2020 fourth-round pick by the Vikings, Lynch spent last season on injured reserve before his rookie deal expired. He remained a free agent until the Vikings signed him on Tuesday.

Williams, a 2019-second round pick by the New England Patriots, spent last season primarily between the Chicago Bears and Vikings practice squads. He logged 48 defensive snaps in two games for the Vikings.

Both players would be long shots to make the regular-season roster,  but given the considerable amount of competition at cornerback, Lynch has a stronger chance to set himself apart at defensive tackle.

He’s played over 600 defensive snaps for the Vikings in his career but did not get a chance to play under Brian Flores last season.

This year’s training camp will be contentious with many new faces as general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah acquired roughly 40% of the roster this offseason, per The Star Tribune.

Vikings Need More Help on Defensive Interior

Harrison Phillips

GettyDefensive tackle Harrison Phillips #97 of the Minnesota Vikings

Last season, defensive tackle Harrison Phillips put forth a heavy undertaking at nose tackle, logging a career-high 839 defensive snaps. Naturally a 3-4 defensive end, Phillips is not only undersized but played far too many snaps.

The Vikings hoped to get Phillips some help and were interested in signing prized defensive tackle Christian Wilkins. However, the Las Vegas Raiders blew Wilkins away with a four-year, $110 million deal.

There were no meaningful free-agent additions to the defensive interior group as Flores will have to hope Phillips holds up for another season and a developing cast of backups can rise to play meaningful roles on the defensive front.

A 2023 fifth-round pick, Jaquelin Roy is the presumptive backup nose tackle behind Phillips, while Lynch has a headstart ahead of rookies Tyler Manoa (Arizona, undrafted), Taki Taimani (Oregon, undrafted) and Levi Drake-Rodriguez (Texas A&M-Commerce, 7th round).

Vikings Rookie CB Expected to Push Veterans

Khyree Jackson, Minnesota Vikings

GettyKhyree Jackson #5 of the Oregon Ducks.

It’s rare for a fourth-round pick to have this much hype going into training camp, but Vikings rookie Khyree Jackson‘s reputation proceeds him.

The Alabama and Oregon product’s lengthy 6-foot-4 frame is reminiscent of Xavien Howard — a likely comparison given Flores’ success in developing Howard into an All-Pro corner.

Star Tribune beat reporter Ben Goessling did not discount that Jackson may have an advantage in challenging third-year corners Andrew Booth Jr. and Akayleb Evans.

“O’Connell has talked this offseason about how the Vikings want to play more man coverage in 2024 than they did in 2023, meaning cornerbacks such as fourth-round pick Khyree Jackson could challenge third-year players such as Evans and Andrew Booth Jr. for playing time opposite free-agent pickup Shaquill Griffin,” Goessling wrote.

Byron Murphy Jr. remains the lead cornerback in the Vikings locker room. But after Murphy played primarily on the outside last season, the Vikings hope to move him into the slot as they planned when they signed him to a two-year, $17.5 million deal as their prized free agent last offseason.

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