Vikings position outlook: Defensive tackles

January, 28, 2014
Jan 28
8:00
AM ET
MINNEAPOLIS -- We're continuing on with our position-by-position outlook of the Minnesota Vikings' roster. Today: the defensive tackles.

DEFENSIVE TACKLES

2014 free agents: Kevin Williams, Fred Evans

The good: Though he certainly wasn't the same kind of force he was in his prime, Williams showed he could be counted on more than the Vikings had planned to do at the beginning of the year. He played 733 snaps in 15 games, averaging 48 a game after the Vikings had talked in the preseason about keeping him between 30 and 40, and posted 2 1/2 sacks from the nose tackle position when injuries necessitated he fill in there against Washington. Williams played through a knee injury after a low block from San Francisco's Joe Looney in the preseason, and was probably still the Vikings' most reliable interior lineman at the age of 33.

The bad: The Vikings didn't get much closer to figuring out their future in the middle of their line. Rookie tackle Sharrif Floyd was just OK in his first season, struggling against the run early in the season and adjusting later in the year to what opposing teams were trying to do to him. He'll likely take a step forward in his second season, but the Vikings might not be able to count on him to anchor their three-technique position if they stay in a 4-3 defense. Both Evans and Letroy Guion struggled with nagging injuries that kept them out of a combined five games; Evans will be a free agent, and Guion hasn't shown he can be a force at the nose yet.

The money (2014 salary-cap numbers): Guion ($4.3 million), Floyd ($1.835 million), Chase Baker ($495,000). The Vikings don't have much money committed to the position, and Williams -- who has said multiple times he wants to finish his career in Minnesota -- could be a candidate to return on a one-year deal. At the same time, the Vikings would only have to count $300,000 of Guion's signing bonus against the cap if they cut him, and it seems possible they could look to go in a different direction at nose tackle or try to restructure the final year of the nose tackle's deal in exchange for more guaranteed money. The Vikings' lack of depth at the position could make it tough to cut Guion, who's at least a known commodity at the position, but it wouldn't be surprising to see them look for an upgrade at nose tackle, either. The main key at the position in 2014, though, will be how much Floyd can develop in Year 2.

Draft priority: Moderate/high. The Vikings need more depth at the position, and it's been a few years since they had a dominant middle of their defense with Kevin and Pat Williams. If a quarterback isn't there for them at No. 8, the Vikings couldn't be faulted for taking a tackle to pair with Floyd, possibly after trading down to grab an extra pick or two.

Ben Goessling

ESPN Minnesota Vikings reporter

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