Defensive tackle Kevin Williams will turn 33 on August 16, making him the oldest player on the Minnesota Vikings’ roster. So it was not a surprise the two sides agreed to a restructured contract in April, reducing his salary for 2013 and making him a free agent after the season. The Vikings also used the first of what was ultimately three first-round picks in April’s draft on a possible heir apparent for Williams, selecting defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd 23rd overall.
Williams is not the player he was in his prime, and he set a career-low for tackles last season (45) while playing the sixth-most snaps among 4-3 defensive tackles (886, per Pro Football Focus.com). So it makes sense for the Vikings to consider reducing his role at bit this season, in an effort to keep him fresh as well as give Floyd a chance to assert himself as a rookie. Head coach Leslie Frazier has confirmed the coaching staff’s intentions to do just that, telling the Minneapolis Star Tribune on Monday that the team is aiming to play Williams 30-40 snaps per game this season.
A proud veteran like Williams surely does not want to see his role minimized at all, but I think the move to limit his snaps is a good decision for the Vikings. Williams should theoretically be more effective when he is in the game, and getting Floyd on the field as much as possible can only be a positive for 2013 and beyond.
But I think there is another intriguing player that could be used at defensive tackle in Williams’ place. Defensive end Everson Griffen had a breakout season in 2012, with eight sacks and an interception return for a touchdown, and he has the heft (280 pounds) to hold up playing inside on passing downs.
If Vikings’ defensive coordinator Alan Williams can find a way to deploy all of the defensive lineman at his disposal, an improvement on last season’s 44 sacks (tied for fifth-most in the NFL) could be coming.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.