The Vikings Should Put in a Waiver Claim For Defensive Tackle Maurice Hurst

Hurst could be a difference-maker as a rotational three-technique in Minnesota.
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Despite having over $7 million in salary cap space, the Vikings have been quiet in free agency since signing Mackensie Alexander and Xavier Woods three weeks ago.

Per KSTP's Darren Wolfson, they haven't been doing much work behind the scenes, either.

"Seems to be more right now of agents pitching their clients to them," Wolfson tweeted. "Probably will add after the draft, if needed, or sooner if it works out on a 1-year minimum type deal."

There's nothing wrong with the Vikings being patient and waiting until after the draft. It does mean they're missing out on some players who could help them, as I'll get to in a bit, but there's still plenty of time to add to their roster.

However, when a potential difference-maker unexpectedly becomes available, Rick Spielman and company shouldn't hesitate to take advantage of the opportunity.

On Thursday, the Raiders surprisingly released young defensive linemen Maurice Hurst and Arden Key, both of whom they drafted just three years ago. (They also released QB Kyle Sloter, a familiar name to Vikings fans). Key is a serviceable edge rusher; he was a third-round pick out of LSU who has three sacks in three years but is still just 25 years old.

The real prize here is Hurst, who has shown flashes of being one of the better pass-rushing defensive tackles in the league when healthy. The 2018 fifth-rounder out of Michigan fell in the draft because of a heart condition, but proved to be a steal with four sacks as a rookie. He added another 3.5 sacks the following year, with 38 pressures and a 77.8 PFF pass rush grade that ranked eighth among qualified defensive tackles. Hurst was limited to 11 games last year due to some ankle/calf injury issues, but he still played well when he was on the field, boosting his pass rush grade to 78.5.

Hurst is an undersize defensive tackle with above-average athleticism and good pass rushing moves. He's about to turn 26. So why are the Raiders releasing him? Your guess is as good as mine. Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden have done some questionable things this offseason, headlined by the dismantling of one of the NFL's best offensive lines.

The Vikings shouldn't think twice about putting in a waiver claim for Hurst. Adding him to a DT room that already includes early-down run stuffers Michael Pierce and Dalvin Tomlinson would be incredible. He could play on every passing down and serve as an excellent rotational three-technique for Mike Zimmer and Andre Patterson.

The issue is that he's unlikely to make it to the Vikings, who are 14th in the waiver order. But unless there's something wrong with Hurst's medical situation that I don't know about, they should absolutely put in a claim just in case.

Update: Hurts (and Key) went unclaimed on waivers and is now a free agent who is free to sign with any team.

I wouldn't be entirely opposed to putting in a claim for Key, who has decent size and athleticism and could be worth a look. But with many similarly-talented edge rushers available in the upcoming draft, I'd be surprised if the Vikings did that. Key simply isn't very good.

More free agents come off the board

Just during the course of the day on Thursday, three players that could've helped the Vikings signed with other teams. Edge rusher Aldon Smith inked with the Seahawks, guard Lane Taylor signed with the Texans, and the greatest kick returner of all time — a former Vikings first-round pick by the name of Cordarrelle Patterson — is headed to Atlanta.

None of those moves are worth fretting over, but it's worth wondering if the Vikings should be acting a little more aggressively to add veterans to their roster. They still have cap space and they still have few glaring holes (which happen to include edge rusher, guard, and kick returner). They weren't going to spend a ton of money on someone like Jadeveon Clowney, but Smith would've been an affordable addition to a pass rushing corps that is very underwhelming at present.

We'll have to wait and see if they do anything prior to the draft or wait to see what they still need after the draft is over.

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