Right before his wedding in New Orleans in April, new Vikings edge rusher Marcus Davenport had another important decision to make.
The 6-6, 265-pound defender chose to be the first No. 0 ever in a Vikings uniform. The NFL further relaxed jersey rules this offseason, allowing everyone but offensive and defensive linemen to wear zero in games. Davenport, who signed a one-year deal worth up to $13 million in March, is listed as an outside linebacker.
He said the decision represents a "new frontier" after five uneven seasons with the Saints. But Davenport first needed to talk with his bride-to-be, Alexandra Landry. She liked the idea of him wearing No. 3, which quickly went to first-round draft pick Jordan Addison two days before their April 29 nuptials.
"I want to say it was the day before my wedding," Davenport said. "I told my lady I'm like, 'Hey, I'm not really going to rock with No. 3,' and she was kind of upset about that. So, we were going through the numbers and [zero] came back. She wasn't a fan of zero at first. We talked about it. I'd be the first zero — like that's a new frontier for, shoot, every team — and especially for me. She said go with it, be different. So, here I am."
Davenport is instantly different as the largest NFL player currently in a No. 0 uniform, according to a review of rosters, and one of just four edge rushers with the number. The jersey represents a coveted fresh start in Minnesota, where he wants to parlay a bounce-back season into another chance at free agency in 2024. He had a career-low 0.5 sacks last year.
General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah still bet big on a tantalizing athlete. On Davenport's NFL.com draft profile, his pro comparison is listed as teammate Danielle Hunter — the Vikings' sinewy, long-limbed pass rusher.
Davenport flashed that potential in New Orleans, but he was often injured and limited to a part-time role. He has missed at least two games to injury each season and has yet to play more than 50.5% of defensive snaps in a year.
"I've got to win more, and I've got to finish," he said. "Winning [against a block], that's one thing, but finishing is a whole other level. From there, it'd be taking those opportunities and not hesitating as much. That's one thing I like about here, we're trying to attack."
The Vikings gave Davenport $10 million guaranteed to start opposite Hunter in new coordinator Brian Flores' defense.
Reflecting the injury history, he has the largest weekly per-game roster bonus (totaling $2 million) and workout bonus ($1 million) on the team. The bonuses are tied to suiting up for games and participating in the voluntary offseason program. Only 17 edge rushers can pocket more cash this year, according to OverTheCap.com.
"It definitely worked out with what I had in mind," said Davenport, who has played in 63 of 82 NFL games. "Because at certain points in time, you need something new to refresh you."
Davenport, 26, said he is playing for the family he always keeps close.
He has one tattoo for each child: an ace from a playing card behind his left ear for his 10-month-old daughter, Artis; a king behind his right ear for his 3-year-old son, King; and another design on his right arm for his 5-year-old son, Johan. He met his wife while playing for the Saints in New Orleans.
"My family is over everything else," he said.
Adofo-Mensah and coach Kevin O'Connell have said they want to provide an environment, a "culture" where they say every voice is heard in a highly pressurized workplace, that sets up players to be their best.
“I've got to win more, and I've got to finish. Winning [against a block], that's one thing, but finishing is a whole other level.”
O'Connell referenced Davenport's upside and past work against his offenses, which includes Davenport's only sack from last season — against the Vikings in London.
"He has always struck me as a guy with so much potential," O'Connell said in April, "and still so much football out in front of him."
On that third-down sack against the Vikings, Davenport aligned over left tackle Christian Darrisaw before the snap. He looped inside, bull-rushed left guard Ezra Cleveland into the backfield and took down quarterback Kirk Cousins, sharing that sack with Cameron Jordan.
"Great in the run game, too," Darrisaw said. "He's going to be a huge help for our defense. We haven't had many full-speed reps, but you can tell he's a great player."
Both the Vikings and Davenport would benefit from the pass rusher finding his groove as a full-time player in the NFL.
"Win as much as we can," Davenport said, "and either ride off into the sunset [in 2024 free agency] or just figure out where it goes from there."