The Vikings' biggest offseason addition isn't going to play for them in 2020, but that's not going to stand in their way.
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer told reporters Monday he understands and supports defensive tackle Michael Pierce's decision to opt out, and said the Vikings "got a plan and we'll stick to it."
First up on the list of potential replacements is defensive tackle Armon Watts. Zimmer was positive in his review of Watts on Monday.
"Armon has played really well," Zimmer said. "He's done a nice job when he's been in there. He played a fair amount towards the amount of last year."
The Arkansas product appeared in seven games last season, recording 11 tackles and 1.5 sacks. According to Next Gen Stats, Watts recorded a disruption on just under 10 percent of his 41 pass-rushing snaps from an interior defensive position. There's room for improvement, but Watts has indeed showed some promise in limited opportunities.
There are also a handful of veteran free agents at the position who are drawing interest from needy teams. Defensive tackle has been hit the hardest by opt-outs across the NFL, opening a path for some veterans who might have seen the market dried up on them by this point. NFL Network's Mike Garafolo reported last week several of these defensive tackles are receiving calls as a result of opt-outs.
On Monday, the defensive-minded Zimmer bristled at the notion the Vikings' offense might be ahead of the defense at this point of camp, per the St. Paul Pioneer Press' Chris Tomasson. The loss of a key piece like Pierce might contribute to such a change in progress. We'll see if Minnesota is one of those teams eyeing a veteran to fill a void and perhaps bring the camp battle back to even.
UPDATE: Not long after this article was published, the Vikings added depth to their defensive line by trading for former Raiders second-round pick P.J. Hall.