MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Minnesota Vikings have been fairly active going into and during free agency, extending or re-signing talent. Quarterback Kirk Cousins, who was going into the third year of a three-year contract, will now remain with the team through 2022. Fullback C.J. Ham will also be a Viking for the foreseeable future. Tackle Rashod Hill, who has seen most of his action as a Vikings reserve, will continue blocking for them.
Maintaining talent allows a team to tread water, and unfortunately the team has lost a lot since the start of free agency, including Stefon Diggs (via trade), Trae Waynes and Linval Jones. Signing new talent helps them improve. That’s where former Baltimore Ravens nose tackle Michael Pierce comes in. Pierce, nicknamed “the Juggernaut” early in his pro career, was signed last week to a three-year $27 million deal, replacing the outgoing Joseph along the Vikings’ defensive line. Joseph anchored a stout unit that finished the 2019 season in the top five. Pierce, who admitted in a recent video for the Vikings website to idolizing and emulating Joseph, has some big shoes to fill.
The new Viking, whose ex-team was actually slightly better defensively (at least stat-wise), seems up to the task. Pierce is a sturdy 6’0″ 340 pound rock of a nose tackle who came into the league as an undrafted free agent. He started half of the 60 Ravens games he appeared in, 14 of them last season, and has notched 151 tackles to date. The mountainous nose tackle eats up blocks on rushing plays and has developed into a pocket mover on passing plays.
The Juggernaut’s size has been a key asset in his growth as a player over the last four seasons. Another asset has been his strength. Pierce grew up a fan of the World’s Strongest Man competitions and developed an interest in weightlifting early in life. In a recent conference call, the new Viking stated that he believes himself to be, strength-wise, “at least in the top 10” in the League. A video of Pierce squatting a cool 725 pounds in college surfaced awhile back.
“I have a sheer love for weightlifting,” he professed. “I’d be doing that if I wasn’t playing football. I’d probably be trying to try out for the Olympics or join the U.S.A. Olympic weightlifting team.”
Another asset is his attitude. Pierce thinks of himself as an enforcer who sets the tone for the defense. To some degree, that’s the responsibility of any defensive lineman. But it’s easy to see an undrafted, perennially underestimated defender like like Pierce taking that role upon himself. Vikings fans can expect him to play with “the most heart, the most determination, and a will to win,” as he recently stated. “When you work so hard to achieve something that many people don’t get to achieve, you really have to value it. And you really have to play every down like it’s your last.”
Pierce will be switching from Baltimore’s 3-4 scheme to Minnesota’s 4-3 scheme. That raises questions about just how the new Viking will be used in game situations and how, if at all, the Vikings might adapt to their new defensive tackle. Co-defensive coordinators Andre Patterson and Adam Zimmer will clue us in once the regular season comes.