We’re at the point where teams no longer playing football fully focus on next season.

That is the case for the Minnesota Vikings, and all eyes are on the defensive side of the ball. Many changes are expected, and Pro Football Focus sees one pending Vikings free agent heading to a divisional rival.

PFF Sends Pending Vikings FA to Division Rival

The free agent in question is defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson. After four seasons as a New York Giant, Tomlinson came to Minnesota in 2021 as a big-money signing at a time when cap space was at a premium. Tomlinson signed a 2-year $21 million contract, which isn’t huge money but at the top end of what the Vikings could’ve handed out in the last couple of years.

PFF Sends Pending
Oct 2, 2022; London, United Kingdom; Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson (94) during the NFL International Series game at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter van den Berg-USA TODAY Sports

In desperation to create cap space, Tomlinson is one of many players who had money pushed back to later years. Now he is set to be a free agent, while the Vikings have a $7.5 million cap hit against his name.

Minnesota should bring him back in 2023.

He has been as solid against the run as advertised while also showcasing he can get some traction as a pass rusher. The trouble is, any team looking to add some beef to their interior defensive line should have their eyes on Tomlinson.

The Vikings need to create a lot of cap space to solve many problems, so can they compete if another team comes in and offers a big contract? PFF sees the Chicago Bears making a move. They have over $100 million in cap space, leaving them well-placed to offer Tomlinson a better deal.

Tomlinson to Chicago

Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson (94) pressures Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) causing a fumble during their football game on Sunday, January, 1, 2023 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. © Wm. Glasheen/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Choosing the best for the top 10 defensive free agents, Jonathon Macri of PFF outlined the following for a Tomlinson to Chicago move:

The Bears’ defensive line needs significant help, and adding a player like Tomlinson who has had success as both a pass rusher and a run defender in his career is a strong place to start. Chicago ranked 31st in run-defense grade (34.9) and 32nd in pass-rush grade (52.2) in 2022, and with just over $100 million in cap space to utilize, the defensive line should be considered a unit to significantly upgrade.

Tomlinson has seen his career run-defense grades slowly decline over the past few years but at the same time reached a new career high in pass-rush grade (79.1) and total pressures (29) in 2022 despite missing three games. However, even as his run-defense grades slightly declined, he has made a significant impact with 36 tackles at or behind the line of scrimmage against the run, which is the sixth most at his position over the past four seasons.

The Bears are likely to be busy this offseason, and stealing a key piece from an NFC North rival could be one of their many moves as they look to revamp the defensive line.

Jonathon Macri, Pro Football Focus

What Should the Vikings Do?

What Difference Does Dalvin Tomlinson Make?
Sep 26, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) scrambles against the Minnesota Vikings defensive end Dalvin Tomlinson. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

It’s certainly a move that would make sense for the Bears, but how much of a fight should the Vikings put up to keep their man in Minnesota? Tomlinson should certainly be approached by the Vikings. However, if Chicago or anyone else offers big money, I don’t think it makes sense for the Vikings to get into a bidding war.

Harrison Phillips is already in the building, and Khyris Tonga proved serviceable as an early down run stuffer. He is also out of contract but should return in 2023 for cheap. The Vikings also have Esezi Otomewo, James Lynch, and Ross Blacklock for depth.

Moving on from Tomlinson, swallowing the dead cap, and looking to bring in an interior defensive lineman who excels at rushing the passer makes a ton of sense to me. Whether that’s through free agency, the draft, or even a trade, finding that kind of player would be a difference-maker for this Vikings defense.

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