Getty head coach Kevin O’Connell of the Minnesota Vikings.
The Minnesota Vikings embraced a defensive overhaul this season, parting ways with several veterans and giving younger players a chance to develop.
This trend is likely to continue next offseason as several veterans are playing with upcoming contracts.
Linebacker Jordan Hicks is one of those players. Bleacher Report predicts Hicks will leave Minnesota next season.
“The Vikings have a good young linebacker in Ivan Pace Jr., but Jordan Hicks and Troy Dye are about to become free agents, so the position will be needed in the offseason,” reads Bleacher’s Week 9 Team Needs report Report.
Hicks opted out of the knife last season because it represented a more affordable option for veteran linebackers compared to Eric Kendricks last season. Hicks loved Brian Flores’ plan and posted Pro Football Focus’ 19th highest defensive grade (78.3) among qualified inside linebackers this season. As one of the team’s most experienced players, he was also named team captain.
Hicks’ contract expires in February and he will be 32 years old before the start of the 2024 season. He has earned $36.6 million over his career but could return for the right price.
But similar to most of the Vikings’ veterans in recent years, the team will only bring them back on its terms – and Minnesota could look for an option that’s a better fit for Pace after learning what it has in the undrafted rookie.
Ivan Pace Jr.’s breakout rookie season brings new opportunities for the Vikings
Pace, who went undrafted out of Cincinnati, has posted the 23rd highest PFF grade (75.7) through nine weeks and offers significant potential as a pass rusher. He has the sixth-highest pass rushing grade (86.5) among linebackers and recorded 10 pressures and one sack this season.
Pace has shown that, despite his undersize, he is capable of getting rid of blockers and is also adept at doing so. thepass, which enables a passer rating of 81.3 when targeted.
He’s the ideal replacement for the role Kendricks held for nearly a decade.
The next task is to find Pace and his own Anthony Barr to create a dynamic inside linebacker duo.
Vikings pass rush will be overhauled in 2024
The other defensive position group that could see an exodus at outside linebackers.
Danielle Hunter, Marcus Davenport and DJ Wonnum are all playing on expiring contracts.
Although Davenport hasn’t played much due to injury, the trio accounts for 76% of the pass rusher snaps through nine weeks this season.
The Vikings will have to weigh who can stay and who can go, with Hunter being one of the most important decisions this offseason. He currently leads the league with 10 sacks and 13 tackles for loss.
Justin Jefferson’s contract extension and the decision at quarterback to continue shrinking Minnesota’s roster next season have made it clear that they want to prioritize a top-notch edge rusher by reaching a compromise on a contract rework with Hunter last summer.
Patrick Jones II, who is third with 309 snaps played, should continue to contribute, while prized undrafted rookie Andre Carter II is expected to take a significant step in his second season next year.
Trevor Squire is a sports journalist who covers the Minnesota Vikings for Heavy.com. Trevor studied journalism at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities and worked at the Star Tribune and the St. Paul Pioneer Press. You can reach him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @trevordsquire. More about Trevor Squire
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