Hercules Mata’afa leaving shows how deep the Vikings are at defensive line in 2021

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The Vikings waived Hercules Mata’afa and he ended up not signing with the practice squad this offseason.

With Minnesota, Mata’afa showed promise as a player who could provide pressure. He had a good preseason this year as well.

It wouldn’t be shocking to see Mata’afa enter into an NFL team’s defensive line rotation, and it wouldn’t even be a surprise if he thrived as a pass rusher in 2021.

Even if that’s the case, the Vikings probably won’t have regrets. This is a team primed to have one of the best defensive lines in the NFL. Mata’afa could have maybe helped at times, but overall, Minnesota has plenty of good options.

The Vikings will likely start Michael Pierce and Dalvin Tomlinson on the interior defensive line. Minnesota can rotate in Sheldon Richardson, a player who provides pressure from the three-technique spot, just like Mata’afa can.

According to Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press, the anticipation had been that Mata’afa would join the Vikings practice squad, but then things changed. The fact that the team had to resort to leaving him off the 53-man roster says a lot about its defensive line in 2021.

Hypothetically, Mata’afa might not even have been the most promising defensive lineman on the practice squad, with second-year edge rusher Kenny Willekes performing well in the preseason after recovering from a 2020 injury.

Some NFL teams maybe would have cut a few players on the Vikings roster instead of Mata’afa. James Lynch had a worse preseason, but he’s shown flashes of promise and was picked in the fourth round just a year ago.

Players like Stephen Weatherly and Armon Watts are probably safer bets for defensive line depth than Mata’afa would be next season. The only player I personally would have cut in favor of Mata’afa is Jalyn Holmes, a defensive lineman who was released by the team later that week.

So overall, the Vikings were left with some tough decisions to cut down their roster to 53 players. Seeing a player like Mata’afa leave the team must be tough, but what are the Vikings to do when they have so many defensive linemen who are at least decent? Sometimes the tough problems are good ones to have.