Defensive tackle Datone Jones signed with the Vikings last week in part because he feels they will give him the best chance to prove himself.
He is by no means the only Vikings defensive tackle in a prove-it year.
With the exception of Pro Bowl nose tackle Linval Joseph, who has two years left on his contract, the rest of the Vikings’ key contributors at defensive tackle are in contract years, including Jones, the former Packers first-round pick who signed a one-year deal worth $3.75 million.
Sharrif Floyd is sticking around on his fifth-year option, perhaps because his lingering knee injury gave the Vikings no say in the matter, but he will be a free agent after the season. Pass-rushing reserve Tom Johnson’s deal will also be up after 2017. And the rookie deals for a pair of 2014 draft picks, Shamar Stephen and Scott Crichton, expire after the season, too.
(Yes, Crichton is still on the team. I just double-checked to make sure.)
Throw in veteran defensive end Brian Robison, whom coach Mike Zimmer regularly used on the inside with Floyd out for most of the 2016 season, and that is a bunch of defensive linemen duking it out to stick around.
Other than Joseph, the only Vikings defensive tackles under contract past 2017 are unproven Toby Johnson, B.J. Dubose and Sterling Bailey.
Given the long-term uncertainty at that position and the fact that maybe all that is keeping the Vikings from having a great pass rush is a disruptive three-technique tackle, one suspects that defensive tackle will be one of the top positions the Vikings try to target in next month’s NFL draft.