Yesterday, the Minnesota Vikings marquee free agent acquisition, DT Michael Pierce, opted-out of the 2020 season, citing the COVID-19 clause in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (high risk version).
Pierce was brought in to replace Linval Joseph in the run game… But now, with former Baltimore Raven now out of the 2020 picture, who will emerge as that run-stuffing piece in the middle of the Vikings defensive line? Well, let’s take a look at the options available.
With multiple defensive tackles opting out today, one name to watch is Domata Peko. The former #Bengals, #Broncos and #Ravens nose tackle is 35 years old, but still in great shape and wants to keep playing. Several teams have expressed interest.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) July 28, 2020
Peko, who is 35, says he still has gas in the tank. He also has loads of experience playing for Mike Zimmer, while in Cincinnati for six seasons together, giving him an advantage on learning curve.
After being reliable as a run stuffer in both Cincinnati and Denver, Peko had a nondescript 2019 while with the Ravens (Pierce’ team that same season). Peko could be a serviceable option for the Vikings to replace Pierce assuming he is healthy.
Another available free agent who may garner interest from the Vikings is . Jernigan, who spent 2019 with the Eagles. He nearly signed with the Texans earlier this offseason, but didn’t. Jernigan is a known run-stuffer who can also, at times, rush the passer. At just 27, he still has a lot of talent in him. In fact, he could have a similar impact as what many thought Pierce could have.
Timmy Jernigan is another "roarin' to go." Had a verbal deal in the offseason with Houston that didn't get completed in the end. Health is said to be good now. #Vikings haven't touched base, as of late morning. https://t.co/ortvnvJ1Cc— Darren Wolfson (@DWolfsonKSTP) July 28, 2020
Even if the Vikings don’t replace Pierce through FA, there are still capable guys already on roster.
Armon Watts showed some flashes of potential, in the few games he played towards the end of last season. Watts impressed in limited action until he was injured in week 16. He’s somewhat undersized, but seems aware of that while on the field.
If he can hone his technique during camp and splash early, the Nose Tackle job could very well be his to lose.
Johnson hasn’t played much at the 3-tech, but he has shown potential at times. If Jaleel is the one who pops during camp, he could contend for more playing time than he has been able to garner, thus far in his career.
Watts and Johnson could find themselves as valuable options to play alongside the other three solidified starters on the D-Line. Can they handle being thrust into those new roles, though?
With Michael Pierce opting out, Jaleel Johnson becomes a leading candidate to step in as the starting #Vikings nose tackle. Last year's three-technique, Shamar Stephen, also can play the nose. Second-year man Armon Watts also has to be regarded as being in the mix.— Chris Tomasson (@christomasson) July 28, 2020
It will be interesting to see what the Vikings do to replace Pierce. However, it does appear that in these crazy times, the Vikings find themselves with plenty of options to choose from.
Ameer Eldiomatti | Minnesota Sports Fan