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Vikings reinforce defense with two edge rushers, former Gophers star

The Vikings wasted little time Monday securing help for their defense on the day they lost their starting quarterback.

Just hours into the start of the NFL's free agent negotiating window, the team agreed to terms with two edge rushers: the Texans' Jonathan Greenard and the Dolphins' Andrew Van Ginkel, according to sources with knowledge of the deals.

The Vikings are also bringing home linebacker Blake Cashman, the former Texans, Gophers and Eden Prairie linebacker, on a three-year deal worth up to $25.5 million, a league source said.

The additions are expected to plug defensive holes the Vikings could develop in free agency. Edge rushers Danielle Hunter, Marcus Davenport and D.J. Wonnum, as well as linebacker Jordan Hicks, have expiring contracts and are free to negotiate with other teams.

Hicks and Davenport are reportedly headed elsewhere. Davenport agreed to a one-year deal with the Detroit Lions, according to NFL Media. Dealing with injuries to both ankles, Davenport appeared in only four games for the Vikings after signing a one-year contract worth more than $10 million last year.

Hicks agreed to a two-year deal worth up to $8 million with the Browns, per ESPN. The former team captain is moving on after leading a young linebacker group last season. He turns 32 this summer.

Free agents can officially sign contracts with new teams starting at 3 p.m. Wednesday.

Greenard, a third-round pick in the 2020 draft, appears poised to replace Hunter, who is hitting the free agent market for the first time in his career. Greenard, who turns 27 in May, agreed to a four-year deal worth up to $76 million.

He broke out for the Texans in coach DeMeco Ryans' first season, posting 12½ sacks while ranking eighth in the league in run-stop percentage among edge defenders, according to Pro Football Focus. His signing gives the Vikings a proven pass rusher when the top of their 2023 depth chart, from Hunter to Wonnum, can sign elsewhere.

Their possible departures made pass rush one of the Vikings' biggest needs in free agency, and the team figured to be aggressive in adding pieces for Brian Flores' defense. The pace with which they pursued Greenard spoke to both the degree of their need and the urgency created by the players they could lose on the open market.

Van Ginkel reunites with Flores after initially entering the league as a 2019 fifth-round pick by Flores' Dolphins. Van Ginkel, a Rock Valley, Iowa, native who played college football at Wisconsin, agreed to a two-year deal worth up to $20 million, according to a league source. He was an ascending player in Miami, where he had a career-high six sacks and eight pass deflections last season. Van Ginkel has appeared in 73 straight regular-season games.

He started 26 games under Flores and had a 78-yard fumble return for a touchdown against the Rams in 2020, when Vikings head coach Kevin O'Connell was the Los Angeles offensive coordinator.

The Vikings likely aren't done adding to the defensive line.

They're thin on the edge and interior, where Harrison Phillips, Dean Lowry and Jaquelin Roy are under contract. The Vikings reportedly expressed interest in former Dolphins defensive tackle Christian Wilkins, a top interior rusher who agreed to a four-year, $110 million deal with the Raiders on Monday.

Defensive tackles Jonathan Bullard, Khyiris Tonga and James Lynch are pending free agents.

Cashman, who turns 28 in May, returns to Minnesota, where he once starred for Eden Prairie High School and the Gophers. Like Greenard, Cashman had a breakout season with the Texans last season, leading Houston with 106 combined tackles in a career-high 13 starts.

Inside linebacker Troy Dye, who primarily played on special teams, is also a pending free agent.

When asked recently about last year's 16th-ranked defense, General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah said the Vikings need to be a deeper team. The pass rush was inconsistent and buoyed by an NFL-high blitz rate.

The Vikings ranked 19th in the NFL in sacks. Without blitzing, they ranked 22nd in pressure rate, per NFL Next Gen Stats. Davenport suited up for just four games. Wonnum suffered a torn quad in Week 16.

"Eventually we just ran out of depth," Adofo-Mensah said Feb. 27 at the NFL scouting combine. "We didn't have enough to overcome. Injuries happen in this sport and it's my job to build the two-deep [depth chart], the special teams, the player development, all these different things to overcome the adversity that can happen in a season. We didn't do that, and that's something we'll keep working towards."

The Vikings also worked quickly to fortify their offensive line depth on Monday, re-signing David Quessenberry and Blake Brandel.

Quessenberry, 33, stepped into the swing tackle role last season and fared well in four starts. The terms of his contract were not immediately available.

Brandel, 27, started two games at right guard last season. He was a restricted free agent who is expected to have received the low-level tender worth nearly $3 million for next season. He'll be an unrestricted free agent in 2025.

Left guard Dalton Risner, who started 11 games last season, is a pending free agent.