Vikings Urged to Sign $92 Million All-Pro Defender

The Minnesota Vikings defensive front is in dire need of reinforcements, prompting ESPN to urge the Vikings to bolster their run defense and pass rush with a single player — Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Justin Madubuike.

Kevin O'Connell, Vikings

ESPN’s Aaron Schatz suggested the Vikings sign Madubuike, an impending free agent, who could fit several roles for a defensive front that returns only Harrison Phillips as a regular contributor.

“Defensive end Jonathan Bullard is a free agent, while 30-year-old Dean Lowry missed half last season with a pectoral injury and has only 0.5 sacks over the past two years. The Vikings’ defense improved significantly last season but could use improvement at 5-technique defensive end,” Schatz wrote.

“Enter Madubuike, who can play as either a 3-tech tackle or a 5-tech end. In a breakout season, he had 13 sacks with a career-high 56 combined tackles and was named second-team All-Pro. He’s a powerful pass-rusher who also is a strong run defender.”

Justin Madubuike’s Prospects in Free Agency

Justin Madubuike

A 2020 third-round pick, Madubuike had a breakout year in 2023, tallying 15 sacks and 77 pressures in 19 games last season. Madubuike ranked 10th in Pro Football Focus’ wins above replacement (WAR).

Pro Football Focus named him the sixth-best free agent this offseason and second among defensive interior linemen, projecting him to garner a four-year, $92 million extension this spring.

“Madubuike has a strong case for being the player to earn himself the most money in 2023. With at least half a sack in 13 of 17 games this season, Madubuike more than doubled his prior season high. He also exactly doubled his total pressure output,” PFF’s free-agency report reads. “His effort and intensity on backside pursuit plays have always been there, and now an improved arsenal of moves with a more explosive first step has Madubuike set to cash in big time.”

Madubuike would be an ideal interior pass-rusher that the Vikings defense has been missing for years.

Vikings’ Decision on Kirk Cousins Determines Free Agency Spending

Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings’ approach in free agency weighs whether Kirk Cousins will return this season.

If he stays in Minnesota, the Vikings will likely pursue veteran free agents on short-term deals to run it back — the path they’ve taken in free agency since Cousins’ first extension in 2020.

If Cousins leaves, the Vikings will likely draft a rookie quarterback but be left with over $28 million in dead cap from Cousins’ contract. However, signing top free agents entering their prime like Madubuike would be possible by lowering their cap hits for the 2024 season through signing bonuses.

But once Cousins’ dead cap hit clears in 2025, the Vikings currently would rank in the top five in cap space. Even after a Justin Jefferson extension, there would be ample room for several premium contracts to fortify the defense.

If all goes well on that timeline, the Vikings would still have all of their top offensive pieces in place for a rookie-scale quarterback ready to start in his second year.

The defense would be further along with two more draft classes to stack depth pieces and would benefit from having upwards of $100 million to work with in free agency.

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