The Minnesota Vikings accepted a defensive rebuild this season by parting ways with several veterans and giving younger players a chance to develop.
That trend is likely to continue next offseason with several veterans playing on impending contracts.
Linebacker Jordan Hicks is among those players, with Bleacher Report predicting Hicks to leave Minnesota next season.
“The Vikings have a good young linebacker in Ivan Pace Jr., but Jordan Hicks and Troy Dye are impending free agents, so the position will be an offseason need,” Bleacher Report’s Week 9 Team Needs report reads.
Hicks avoided the knife last season as a more affordable veteran linebacker option compared to Eric Kendricks last season. Hicks has reveled in Brian Flores’ scheme, posting the 19th-highest Pro Football Focus defensive grade (78.3) among qualifying inside linebackers this season. He was also named team captain as one of the most experienced players on the team.
Hicks’ contract expires in February and will be 32 before the start of the 2024 season. He’s earned $36.6 million throughout his career but could return for the right price.
But much like most of the Vikings’ veterans in recent years, the team will only bring them back on their terms — and Minnesota may look for an option that pairs better with Pace after learning what they have in the undrafted rookie.
Ivan Pace Jr.’s Breakout Rookie Season Brings New Possibilities for Vikings
Undrafted out of Cincinnati, Pace has posted the 23rd-highest PFF grade (75.7) through nine weeks and offers significant upside as a pass rusher. he has the sixth-highest pass-rushing grade (86.5) among linebackers, posting 10 pressures and one sack this season.
Pace has shown he’s capable of shedding blockers despite being undersized and is also proficient against. thepass, allowing an 81.3 passer rating when targeted.
He is the ideal replacement for the role Kendricks held for nearly a decade.
The next order of business is finding Pace his own Anthony Barr to create a dynamic inside linebacker duo.
Vikings Pass Rush Will See Rehaul in 2024
The other defensive position group that could undergo an exodus at outside linebacker.
Danielle Hunter, Marcus Davenport and D.J. Wonnum are all playing on expiring contracts.
Although Davenport has not played much due to injury, the trio accounts for 76% of pass-rusher snaps through nine weeks this season.
The Vikings will have to triage who can stay and who can go, with Hunter being one of the biggest decisions this offseason. He currently leads the league with 10 sacks and 13 tackles for loss.
Justin Jefferson‘s contract extension and the decision at quarterback figure to cut into Minnesota’s cap space next season as well, but the Vikings have made it clear they want to prioritize having a premiere edge rusher by reaching a compromise on a contract rework with Hunter last summer.
Patrick Jones II, who is third with 309 snaps played, figures to continue to be a contributor, while prized undrafted rookie Andre Carter II will be leaned on to take a significant step in his second season next year.