When at its best in recent years, the Minnesota Vikings defense was built on the foundation of big, disruptive defensive linemen.
On the first day of free agency, the Vikings stuck to the working script and added another talented big man.
Vikings gave former Giants DT Linval Joseph a 5-yr, $31.5 million deal, per source. Big loss for NYG.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 11, 2014
Counting the $42.5 million deal given to defensive end Everson Griffen ahead of free agency, Minnesota has now spent $74 million in just the last three days on shoring up the defensive line. For a 4-3 defense so dependent on disruption up front, it's probably money well spent.
Joseph, who doesn't turn 26 years old until October, figures to fill a large hole in the Minnesota defense left by former nose tackle Pat Williams.
At 323 pounds, with long arms, a quick first step and overwhelming power, Joseph has the ideal size and physical ability to be a dominating 1-technique, especially with the amount of talent he'll have around in Minnesota. He will likely start 2014 alongside 2013 first-round pick Shariff Floyd at tackle, with Griffen and Brian Robison anchoring the two defensive end spots.
New Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer, who spent several years working with top defensive lines in Cincinnati, should like what he now sees in his new starting line.
Griffen and Robison are both being paid as premier edge rushers, and Floyd was drafted to eventually take the place of Kevin Williams, a current free agent who registered 60 career sacks as the Vikings' long-serving 3-technique. Adding Joseph re-completes the puzzle.
According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Joseph finished the 2013 season as the site's 21st-best defensive tackle and fifth-best 1-technique. He graded out positively against the run and pass, registering 26 stops (or a tackle PFF constitutes as a failure for the offense) and 23 quarterback disruptions.
Joseph's overall grade at PFF has remained steady for the three years he's played a significant role in the NFL: plus-6.6 in 2011, plus-6.3 in 2012 and plus-9.9 in 2013. His early-career consistency is both comforting and exciting, as Joseph's best football might still be in front of him.
Overall, Joseph has nine career sacks and 21 tackles for losses. He had three and eight, respectively, in 2013.
Grade the move:
In Joseph, the Vikings have filled one of their primary needs this offseason. Free agency figured to rob Minnesota of both a starter (Williams) and most of the remaining depth at defensive tackle, but Joseph should be ticketed as an immediate fill-in along Zimmer's front four.
And Minnesota fills its need without having to break the bank. At around $6 million per season, the still young and improving Joseph was a good value.
A wide run-stuffer with the ability to push the pocket, Joseph should be the final piece to what could be one of the NFL's best defensive lines next season.
Zach Kruse covers the NFC North for Bleacher Report.