Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer noted earlier this offseason that he wanted to get younger on the defensive side of the ball.
That started with the acquisition of cornerback Jeff Gladney in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Minnesota has now gotten much more talented and younger on defense following the news of a blockbuster trade for a stud Pro Bowl pass rusher.
Vikings trade for Jaguars star Yannick Ngakoue
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Minnesota sent a second-round pick and a fifth-round pick to Jacksonville for the Pro Bowl defensive end.
This is an absolutely massive move in an NFC North that will again see Minnesota vie with the Green Bay Packers for the division crown. It also has the Vikings as a legit Super Bowl contender heading into the 2020 season. Here’s why.
Replacing Everson Griffen with Yannick Ngakoue
- It became clear this past spring that the Vikings had no interest in re-signing the 32-year-old Griffen after he opted out of his contract. Once the veteran signed with the conference-rival Dallas Cowboys, a move was needed to provide another pass-rush threat.
- A four-time Pro Bowler, Griffen was coming off yet another season that saw him put up eight sacks or more for the Vikings. Replacing him was going to be no easy task.
- In the Ngakoue trade, Minnesota acquires someone who is north of seven years younger than his more-veteran counterpart. That fits exactly into what Zimmer wanted to do on defense this offseason.
Elite pass-rush tandem
- In acquiring Ngakoue, the Vikings now have two elite 25-year-old pass rushers who are just now entering their primes.
- Danielle Hunter remains one of the best defensive ends in the NFL, having recorded 41 quarterback hits and 29 sacks over the past two seasons alone.
- For his part, Ngakoue has tallied 85 quarterback hits and 37.5 sacks in four seasons since Jacksonville made him a third-round pick back in 2016. These are dominant numbers for each player, representing a fierce pass-rush tandem that will star in the Twin Cities for years to come.
Picks up the Vikings’ secondary in a big way
- Minnesota had in the past exhausted a ton of draft capital at cornerback. Former early-round picks Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander all departed the Vikings this offseason.
- The Vikings will now be forced to rely on the above-mentioned Gladney as well as fellow youngsters Mike Hughes, Holton Hill and Cameron Dantzler at corner this season.
- It goes without saying that boasting an elite-level pass rusher is going to help this young group of corners step into large roles. It’s not narrative to believe that a good pass rush masks issues in the secondary.
Changes dynamics for Kirk Cousins and Vikings offense
- This can’t be lost in the shuffle, either. Minnesota relies more on a game manager in that of Cousins at quarterback. The idea is to drive down the field while using up the game clock on a consistent basis.
- If the defense is able to provide Minnesota’s offense better field position and get the opposing offense off the field, it changes the landscape in a big way for Cousins and Co.
- Given the status of Dalvin Cook as one of the most-productive backs in the NFL, Minnesota’s offense could actually take off even more in 2020, even without Stefon Diggs aboard.
Bottom line: Lopsided Yannick Ngakoue trade makes Vikings instant Super Bowl contenders
One player can drastically alter the landscape of a season for a team. Minnesota was set to rely on a solid youngster in that of Ifeadi Odenigbo opposite Hunter. He’ll now be the team’s third option. Moving Odenigbo to a pass-rush specific role after a seven-sack 2019 campaign is now small thing.
Equally as important the Vikings now boast one of the league’s best pass-rush tandem. In an NFL has has become increasingly pass-rush heavy, that puts the team in a great position moving forward. This should have Minnesota at least competing with Green Bay in the NFC North with its eyes on the larger prize in that of the conference title.