Three weeks after it was reported that the Vikings were signing former Bengals and Chargers linebacker Nick Vigil, the move finally became official on Tuesday when he put pen to paper.
Asked about why it took so long to finalize the deal, Vigil said he "just had some personal business at home I had to take care of."
This is a solid pickup for the Vikings, as Vigil will replace Eric Wilson as the team's No. 3 linebacker. His contract has a $1.75 million cap hit in 2021 and is worth up to $2.25 million in incentives, making it basically the same deal the Vikings gave to Xavier Woods to be one of their starting safeties.
Vigil won't be an every-down player if everyone stays healthy, as he's clearly behind Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr on the depth chart, but he'll be out there on downs when the Vikings utilize a traditional 4-3 base defense and should also contribute on special teams.
Having played for Vikings senior defensive assistant Paul Guenther when he was the defensive coordinator for the Bengals, Vigil is excited about having some familiarity with Minnesota's defensive scheme.
“Historically, since [Mike Zimmer] has been here, they’ve been one of the best defenses in the league," Vigil said. "They’ve got a lot of really good players at linebacker, on the D-line and in the secondary. Pro Bowlers. I’ve played in this system under Paul Guenther when I was with the Bengals, so I’m very familiar with the system. It’s really appealing to me."
Vigil, who turns 28 in August, grew up in Utah and is an avid outdoorsman. He played his college ball at Utah State University, shined in the agility drills at the 2016 NFL combine, and was drafted by the Bengals in the third round.
After mostly playing on special teams as a rookie, Vigil started 37 games for Cincinnati from 2017 to 2019, recording 274 tackles, 13 pass breakups, two interceptions, and two sacks during that span. At 6'2", 235 pounds, he's an asset in coverage who has struggled as a tackler for most of his career. He's fairly similar to Wilson in that sense.
"It’s a defense where you play a lot of different coverages," Vigil said. "You’ve got to be able to do quite a bit of different things. You’ve got to be a smart player where you can think and diagnose very fast, and I think I do a good job of that. And yeah, the techniques are one of the biggest things in this defense — you’ve got to be very technique-sound because you do a lot of different stuff. So I think that plays to my strength."
In 2019, Vigil played over 450 coverage snaps for the Bengals and allowed just an 86.5 passer rating on 52 targets, per Pro Football Focus. However, he was credited with 19 missed tackles.
Vigil spent 2020 with the Chargers, where he returned to being a rotational linebacker who played a lot on special teams. That will likely be his role for the Vikings in 2021 as well.
As a Wilson replacement, Vigil is a fine pickup. He's got great agility, knows the scheme, and can make plays in coverage. Unless 2020 fourth-rounder Troy Dye really steps up in his second season, Vigil should win the Vikings' No. 3 linebacker job.
It'll be interesting to see how much Wilson ends up signing for. If it's similar to — or less than — Vigil's $1.75 million cap hit, it'll be worth questioning whether the Vikings would've been better off simply keeping Wilson instead. They presumably anticipated him having a larger market after a 122-tackle, three-INT season, but Wilson still has not signed with a team at this point.
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