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Vikings 2020 Free Agency Status: Defensive Tackles

View the best photos from the Vikings team photographers of the defensive line in 2019.

With the NFL Scouting Combine in the rearview mirror, 2020 free agency is just around the corner. That period will officially begin at 3 p.m. (CT) on March 18 when the new league year begins.

Throughout the week, Eric Smith, Craig Peters and I will continue diving into Minnesota's current roster status by position. We'll offer a refresher on which Vikings are scheduled to become free agents, where potential needs might be and note players from other teams that are set to become free agents.

Up next? The defensive tackles …

UNDER CONTRACT:

Jalyn Holmes, Jaleel Johnson, Linval Joseph, Hercules Mata'afa, Shamar Stephen & Armon Watts

2019 Stats (tackles are team stats)

Holmes: 6 games; 6 tackles (3 solo), 1 tackle for loss

Johnson: 16 games (3 starts); 42 tackles (21 solo), 3.5 sacks, 5 tackles for loss, 8 quarterback hurries, 1 pass defensed

Joseph: 13 games (13 starts); 54 tackles (31 solo), 3.0 sacks, 6 tackles for loss, 15 quarterback hurries, 1 forced fumble

Mata'afa: 6 games; 2 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 4 quarterback hurries, 1 fumble recovery, 1 pass defensed

Stephen: 15 games (15 starts); 36 tackles (21 solo), 1.0 sack, 3 tackles for loss, 8 quarterback hurries, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery, 3 passes defensed

Watts: 7 games (1 start); 14 tackles (2 solo), 1.5 sacks, 1 tackle for loss, 4 quarterback hurries, 1 pass defensed

The Vikings brought back Stephen, who played for Minnesota from 2014-17 before joining the Seahawks in 2018, to start at 3-technique beside Joseph at nose tackle. The duo started the majority of Minnesota's games, but the Vikings also rotated in younger players on the defensive line. Johnson, a 2017 draft pick, played a career-high 37 percent of the team's defensive snaps in 2019.

Minnesota selected Watts in the sixth round last spring, and the former Arkansas lineman got in on 121 (11 percent) of the Vikings defensive plays during his rookie campaign.

SCHEDULED TO BECOME A FREE AGENT:

All five of Minnesota's defensive tackles are currently under contract.

POTENTIAL NEED:

The Vikings appear to be in good shape at defensive tackle, with no one scheduled to hit free agency.

That doesn't mean that the position room won't see any changes, but it remains to be seen what – if any – roster moves are made there.

Some media members and fans have brought up the career longevity of Joseph, who will turn 32 in October. The Vikings utilized a rotation at the defensive line throughout the 2019 season to keep fresh legs in the game at all four spots. 

"At the end of the day, it ends up being a young man's game," Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said during his end-of-season press conference. "The more that we as coaches can help develop these young guys, the quicker that we can help develop them, the better it is for them.

"You always like to see guys have success, whether it's a young guy that you've grown and he becomes a free agent and goes to have success with some other team or it's a guy that's here that you've helped develop to become a good player," Zimmer added.

WHO'S POTENTIALLY OUT THERE:

NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal and Chris Wesseling teamed up again this year to rate their top 101 potential free agents.

The following defensive tackles are listed in order of their overall rankings: 28. D.J. Reader, 30. Javon Hargrave, 40. Shelby Harris, 48. Jarran Reed, 57. Maliek Collins, 59. Jordan Phillips, 61. Michael Brockers, 65. Ndamukong Suh, 67. Gerald McCoy, 71. Michael Pierce, 100. David Onyemata

Other defensive tackles set to become free agents that didn't crack the top 101 are as follows (listed in order of 2019 team): Tyeler Davison (ATL), Michael Pierce and Domata Peko (BAL), Corey Liuget (BUF), Kyle Love and Vernon Butler (CAR), Nick Williams (CHI), Andrew Billings and Josh Tupou* (CIN), Christian Covington and Antwaun Woods(DAL), Mike Purcell* (DEN), Mike Daniels, Damon Harrison and A'Shawn Robinson (DET), Tyler Lancaster (GB), Brandon Dunn (HOU), Akeem Spence (JAX), Mike Pennel (KC), Damion Square and Sylvester Williams (LAC), John Jenkins (MIA), Danny Shelton and Adam Butler* (NE), Timmy Jernigan and Hassan Ridgeway (PHI), Sheldon Day (SF), Quinton Jefferson and Al Woods (SEA)

* Restricted free agent

** Exclusive rights free agent

The Vikings are well-acquainted with Suh, who spent 2010-14 with the Lions, during which he earned four Pro Bowl nods and three times was named First-Team All-Pro. Suh played three seasons in Miami before playing for the Rams (2018) and the Buccaneers (2019). Despite being on the back end of his career, Suh has remained effective; over the past two seasons, he's totaled 7.0 sacks, six fumble recoveries and pass defensed. The lineman scored two defensive touchdowns for Tampa Bay last season.

Another familiar name in Detroit is Robinson, whom the Lions drafted 46th overall in 2016. Robinson has played in all eight games against the Vikings since then and has 20 tackles against Minnesota, more than any other team. 

And don't forget Daniels, who is a longtime rival of the Vikings. The New Jersey native played for the Packers from 2012-18 before joining the Lions for the 2019 season. Daniels has been an effective player in the league but over the past two years has struggled with injuries.

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