As most people know, Pat and Kevin Williams are still subject to suspensions at the begging of next season, but that is not what this article is about. We are talking about the big fellow hanging up the cleats.
The Vikings have him under contract for a few more years, but he is 36 years old! Everybody has to hang it up sometime, and it will be no different for Pat Williams. If the few games the Vikings played without him are any indication as to what will come, they need to begin looking for a replacement soon.
The Vikings have Ellis Wyms, Jimmy Kennedy, and Fred Evans under contract as of now, with Letroy Guion, last year's sixth round pick, trying to develop, but is that going to suffice the loss of Pat Williams.
The run defense has been the Vikings most consistent element ever since Pat Williams arrived. Teamed with Kevin Williams, the "Williams Wall" is perhaps the best run stopping force the NFL has seen in quite some time.
The Vikings have led the NFL in run defense each of the last three seasons, and by bringing in Jared Allen, they have been able to build on the solid foundation, laid by the Williams Wall. But how are things going to change once Pat Williams is gone?
If the Vikings can not find a replacement soon for the Pro Bowl Defensive Tackle, the Vikings may not continue to be the defensive force they have been. The run defense lays the foundation for Minnesota.
They force teams to pass, because the running game is almost always shut down. By forcing teams to pass, the Vikings are able to prepare better defensively, knowing their opponents will likely pass when they cannot run. This is a good strategy, but once Pat Williams is gone, can they keep it up?
Viking's fans should not panic yet, Pat is still running good, and a suspension will only give his career four more games if you want to look at it that way, but it is time to seriously consider a big time replacement.
For the Vikings, they could begin looking for a replacement as soon as the draft in April. There are a few Defensive Tackles who could help out, and eventually take over when Pat is gone, and if the Vikings would rather go through the free agency, there will be some options there too. Here is what I think the Vikings best options are:
B.J. Raji, Boston College
B.J. is 6'1", and 323 pounds! He reminds me a lot of Pat Williams; not only is he huge, but he is more mobile than one might think. Raji had 29.5 tackles for a loss, and 11.5 sacks in his career at Boston College. If Raji is still available at pick 22 for Minnesota, they should take a good look at him.
Peria Jerry, Ole Miss
Jerry had a big Senior season, getting 17 tackles for a loss, and 6 sacks. Jerry is not receiving a lot of attention right now, and that would be a good ting for the Vikings. If he slides all the way down in round two, the Vikings may have Pat Williams' replacement fall right into their laps.
Luis Castillo, San Diego Chargers
Luis Castillo has been a solid Defensive Lineman for a while now. In fact, once he got injured in the 2007 game against the Minnesota Vikings, Adrian Peterson began his slaughtering of the Chargers' Defense.
Castillo would be the ideal replacement for Pat Williams, if the Vikings opt to go through free agency, but be prepared for trouble, because other Viking free agents after the upcoming season include: Chester Taylor, Antoine Winfield, Cedric Griffin, Ray Edwards, Tarvaris Jackson, and Ryan Cook.
That is just the starters, the Vikings will be looking to fill alot of holes, that offseason, if nothing happens, getting a replacement for Pat Williams may not be as important as getting a single cornerback. Castillo will only be 26 by the time he is a free agent.
Vince Wilfork, New England Patriots
Wilfork has become a solid Defensive tackle as well. Wilfork would likely be less expensive than Castillo, but bear in mind, if the Vikings do not get some players extended, they will be scrambling to sign possibly five starters. Wilfork will be 28 as a free agent next season.
Haloti Ngata, Baltimore Ravens
Haloti Ngata has become one of the most feared Defensive Tackles in the game since he was drafted by the Ravens a few years ago. Ngata would be my choice in replacing Pat Williams, but the Vikings would have to wait until 2010 to get him, and that is assuming the Ravens do not extend his contract, or Franchise Tag him.
Ngata would be a great replacement, but likely the hardest guy on this list to get. Ngata will be 26 when he is a free agent, 12 years younger than Pat Williams.
Replacing Pat Williams is a daunting task, and I'm not sure the Vikings can replace all of him, as he has been consistently one of the top five defensive tackles in the NFL, but there is some talent out there, and it is time to start preparing for life without Pat.