And just like that, the Vikings defense appears fully loaded

The defensive line will likely have four entirely new starters from last year.
Publish date:
Danielle Hunter

The Vikings officially announced the signing of defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson on Tuesday, and it means the team's defensive line looks fully loaded on the first day of mandatory minicamp. 

Richardson agreeing to terms on a one-year deal with the Vikings comes just after Pro Bowl edge rusher Danielle Hunter reportedly restructured his contract, ending any chance of a holdout for the 26-year-old sack master. 

The moves shore up any questions about the talent level on the defensive line. In fact, the starting four on the line could very well be entirely new from last year's front four. 

In 2020, with Hunter out with a neck injury, the Vikings typically started Shamar Stephen and Jaleel Johnson on the interior, with Ifeadi Odenigbo and Jalyn Holmes on the outside. That resulted in Minnesota allowing the sixth-most rushing yards in the league. 

The 2021 projected starters are Hunter at left defensive end, D.J. Wonnum at right defensive end, and Michael Pierce and Dalvin Tomlinson on the inside. Tomlinson was Minnesota's big free agent signing this offseason, and Pierce will debut for Minnesota after opting out of 2020 due to COVID-19. 

Wonnum, whom was dubbed "Danielle Hunter 2.0" when the Vikings drafted him last year, is the only real question mark on the defensive line. But if he's anything close to Hunter, it's a massive win for the Vikings. Pierce and Tomlinson, coupled with Richardson entering the fray on third down, give Minnesota a very stout interior that should be superb against the run and at pressuring quarterbacks up the middle. 

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Gone should be the days of Alvin Kamara gashing the Vikings for six touchdowns like he did last Christmas. 

The linebackers should be better, too, with Eric Kendricks returning at middle linebacker, Anthony Barr back from injury on the strong side, and Nick Vigil starting on the weak side after starting 39 games the previous four seasons with the Bengals and Chargers. 

Throw in a year more of experience for cornerbacks Cameron Dantzler and Jeff Gladney (although the latter is facing legal proceedings), the additions of safety Xavier Woods and cornerbacks Patrick Peterson, Bashaud Breeland and Mackensie Alexander, and all of a sudden the Vikings the talent to again become one of the best defenses in the NFL. 

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