The Minnesota Vikings have reached a point where they have a lot of young, talented players playing in key roles all over the field and a lot of those players are nearing the end of their rookie contracts. One of the players who is going to draw a lot of intrigue is defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd.
The Vikings took Floyd at No. 23 overall in the 2013 draft. He was the first of three first-round picks that year and has had an up and down career through his first three years in the NFL.
Floyd works as the Vikings’ three-technique defensive tackle, which is usually the one specialized as more of a pass rusher. When he is healthy, he has the ability to cause havoc in an opponent’s backfield on every snap. He has a unique combination of strength, speed and athleticism that makes him a nightmare for interior offensive linemen.
The problem for him, though, is that he has had a problem staying healthy. The only time he played in all 16 regular season games was his rookie year. He missed two games in 2014 and then three in 2015. But even though he played in a majority of the games, he still wasn’t 100 percent healthy and his play suffered because of that.
In his career, he has recorded 95 tackles, 9.5 sacks, one forced fumble and four passes defensed. They are decent numbers, but you can be sure his coaches would still like to see a little bit of improvement, especially in the sacks department.
Many people were ready to write Floyd off as a bust after just his rookie season when he only recorded 19 tackles, 2.5 sacks, one forced fumble and two passes defensed. He just didn’t look like a first-round pick when playing on the field and it didn’t look like things were going to change anytime soon. Turns out he just did not work well in Leslie Frazier’s scheme because once the Vikings front office fired Frazier and brought in Mike Zimmer in 2014 to be the new head coach, Floyd’s production skyrocketed.
One of the first signings that Zimmer made as a head coach was defensive tackle Linval Joseph. The Vikings signed him to a five-year, $31.25 million deal, which was a lot of money for an interior defensive lineman at the time. Joseph and Floyd have become quite the tandem when they are both healthy and on the field, but it is clear that the defense plays on a higher other level when Joseph is on the field, so it’s hard to imagine Floyd would make more than, or equal to, Joseph.
Pro Football Focus is a sports analytics site that analyzes the play of every player on the field and gives them a grade up to 100. Last season they gave Joseph a grade of 94.4, which was the third-highest grade given to a defensive tackle in the NFL. They then gave Floyd a grade of 75.4, which made him the 50th-ranked defensive tackle in the league.
To be fair, Floyd’s performance was hindered in 2015 because he had to spend some time playing as the team’s nose tackle because Joseph had to miss games with a toe injury. That is not Floyd’s natural position, but he still took up the challenge and held his own. If he spent the entire season playing as the three-technique, then both his stats and PFF’s grade would likely have been higher.
Floyd isn’t set to become a free agent until after the 2017 season because of a fifth-year option the Vikings executed, and things can always change, but as of right now let’s compare him to some similar players and see what type of money he could be expecting to see.
Allen Bailey of the Kansas City Chiefs is one player to look at. He received a PFF grade of 75.3 following his performance during the 2015 season, where he recorded 38 tackles, 4.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. Allen signed a four-year, $25 million deal in 2014. That could be the range that Floyd could expect to see, but then that would mean the Vikings are investing $56.25 into the defensive tackle position, which is a lot for a position that usually isn’t the most lucrative in the NFL.
Another player you could look at for comparison is Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Corbin Bryant. He just signed a one-year deal this offseason worth $1.671 million. Last season he recorded 45 tackles, zero tackles and one pass defensed, but he still received a higher grade (75.6) than Floyd.
It is hard to say what exactly the Vikings are going to do with Floyd once he becomes a free agent, and a lot of it depends on how he plays these next two seasons. He has been a good player when healthy, but he hasn’t always been an elite tackle like they were originally hoping he would be and that could cause the two sides to be far apart when it comes to contract negotiations.
If that becomes the case, then it is possible that they could part ways with the former first-round pick and instead choose to invest their money in other young defensive players that make more of an impact on the field and have contracts on the horizon, such as a Xavier Rhodes or Anthony Barr.