The Viking Should Be Keeping an Eye on Mario Edwards Jr.
By this point, you know the whole story. The elite DL talent was lost – Danielle Hunter and Michael Pierce – and Minnesota was already navigating a massive exodus. Couple that reality with the myriad of injuries and the results were less than stellar. The Vikings will obviously be looking to rectify this situation, but they’ll need to be smart.
Indeed, they’re going to need to go bargain shopping as they pursue value on the free agent market. The first name to keep in mind is Chicago Bears defensive lineman Mario Edwards Jr., a player who would likely make a big difference for the Minnesota Vikings.
The Fit Between Mario Edwards Jr. and the Minnesota Vikings
Let’s start with some basic details. Edwards Jr. was a rotational d-lineman for the Bears last season, only playing 278 snaps. He made the most of his opportunity. PFF ranks him as their second-best interior d-linemen, one spot below Aaron Donald. PFF has given him good scores since 2015, but 2020 is his first season with an elite score. Even if he slides back to merely being a good player, Minnesota should be interested.
The former second-round pick is a 6’3, 280-pound DT and is still only 27. He had four sacks and six TFLs last season. Those numbers would be toward the top of Minnesota’s d-line. He did this as a mere rotational player. Take a look at what he is capable of doing:
#FreakyFriday via Bears DL Mario Edwards Jr. using incredible body control, balance, and coordination to defeat the snatch/trap technique pic.twitter.com/iTJ2gRm564
— The Scouting Academy (@TheScoutAcademy) October 23, 2020
The overall context is important. Chicago’s defense is stacked. Players like Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks, and Roquan Smith very rightly occupy the attention of opposing offenses. In the above video, though, you’ll see Edwards Jr. beat one of the game’s best young tackles, Tristan Wirfs. It’s a great rep.
Now, we need to remember that the team who signs him is going to have to wait a couple games before he can take the field.
Mario Edwards Jr. was suspended without pay for the first two games of the 2021 regular season for violating the NFL policy on performance-enhancing substances. He was on a 1-year deal with the #Bears and is set to be a free agent in March.
— Adam Hoge (@AdamHoge) January 15, 2021
Obviously, working through a suspension isn’t ideal. However, we can choose to take a glass-half-full approach. Signing free agents will likely be cheaper than usual due to the issues presented by the Covid Cap. How much more of a deal can the Vikings get because Edwards Jr. is navigating a suspension? He only made $1.6 million last season, per Over the Cap. A similar number would be more than worth it for the Vikings.
Mario Edwards Jr. slants, penetrates & destroys the counter play before it can even develop. TFL! #stoptherun #bears pic.twitter.com/dBA8WkuofA
— DLineVids (@dlinevids1) October 27, 2020
Disruptive defensive lines are successful defensive lines. Put simply, our d-line wasn’t nearly as disruptive as it needed to be, which is a situation that can’t continue.
Mike Zimmer knows that he needs more pass rushers. A few weeks back, he identified this as a top priority: “A priority for me is that we continue to get more pass rushers.” Mario Edwards Jr. is someone who could really help the Minnesota Vikings. His ability to generate pressure as a 3T should be massively appealing to our Vikings.
Editor’s Note: This is the first installment of TVG’s Free Agent Fits Extravaganza. Be sure to check out The Vikings Gazette, follow us on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe so you don’t miss any great content.