Now that the NFL Draft is over, teams are looking to free agency to fill needs, and no need seems greater than the Minnesota Vikings’ defensive line. Going as far back as the Jared Allen days, the Vikings have always had a dominant defensive line, but they’ve been searching for a veteran presence there since the departure of Everson Griffen last offseason. Minnesota currently doesn’t have a veteran on the defensive line outside of 26-year-old Danielle Hunter, who missed last year with a neck injury.
However, they have recently been linked to Ryan Kerrigan. The 10-year veteran who has spent the entirety of his career with the Washington Football Team has officially hit the open market.
One of the best pass rushers over the past decade, Kerrigan has amassed 95.5 sacks, good for 44th all-time and making him the franchise leader in sacks for Washington. Kerrigan was a four-time Pro Bowler (2012, 2016-2018) and has been the heart and soul of the Washington defense for over a decade. He can also flex from 3-4 as a stand-up linebacker or 4-3 as a hand-in-the-dirt defensive end. Kerrigan’s game allows him to move with the needs of the defense should make him an attractive option for the Minnesota front office.
As a 32-year-old linebacker, Kerrigan probably won’t be able to demand the cap hit he had last year with Washington ($11.6 million). Should Kerrigan take a pay cut to join a contender, he would be an ideal fit for Zimmer and the Vikings’ defense.
There’s a trend of signing veterans to play as stop-gaps and quality contributors while teams buy time for a bigger free-agent acquisition or higher-value prospects to become draft-eligible. Signing Kerrigan would fit this narrative. As Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr close in on 30, the Minnesota front office should capitalize on their prime years. Signing Kerrigan provides added depth for their Pro Bowl linebackers and veteran leadership and experience to an otherwise young group of defensive linemen and linebackers.
Taking a trip back to the pre-COVID NFL two years ago, Kerrigan posted a 63.0 PFF grade. Kendricks? 60.6. Kerrigan missed the last four games of the 2019 season, and his snap count was cut in 2020. Acknowledging that last season was an anomaly for Kerrigan’s playing time, he is statistically similar to Kendricks, who went to the Pro Bowl in 2019.
Kerrigan would be a top-tier addition to the Vikings’ defense, given his ability to play on either end of the front line as well as play stand-up linebacker. This adaptability should make him a valuable get for whatever team signs him.
He has a solid resumé from his time in Washington, especially considering that he missed the last four games in 2019 with a concussion and started only one game last year. To some, only starting one game last season may be a red flag, which would overlook his experience operating in a depth role and becoming an integral player on key-down situations and platoon swaps.
Kerrigan is looking for a career renaissance, and he would find one with the Vikings. Minnesota has $7,601,606 in cap space available, so they are currently in the running to pick up Kerrigan and capitalize on their defensive core’s window of opportunity.