On Wednesday, the Vikings signed former Ravens’ NT Michael Pierce to a 3 year, $27 million contract. Pierce will replace Linval Joseph, who had dominated in the middle of the DL since 2014.
Pierce (27) represents a younger, cheaper option to Joseph (31), and has shown a similar level of play. With Pierce’s contract structure, he only counts $5.1 million against the cap this year. If you add on Linval’s $2.4 million in dead cap from his release, that’s still $5.4 million less than Linval’s original cap hit of $12.9 million for 2020. On top of that, Pierce only has $4 million in dead cap after this season. This is an extremely team-friendly deal.
Pierce is an anchor in the middle of the DL. He will not offer much in the way of pass rush (although with enough time, his bull rush can get him into the laps of QBs), but he is stout against double teams and dominate blockers one-on-one in the run game. He is a smart player, able to diagnose what the offense is doing.
Watching his 2019 game against the Patriots, who had two of the best Gs in the league, Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason, one can see a lot of positive traits.
The bull rush I mentioned above is shown here, where Pierce has great leverage against Thuney, driving him back and eventually forcing an errant deep throw while hitting Tom Brady.
Pierce is very powerful. In the above he delivers a punch to Shaq Mason that knocks him back a full four yards before he can regain his balance. This prevents Tom Brady from stepping up into the pocket to avoid the edge rusher, and forces a throw out of bounds.
His power is evident in the run game as well. On the above outside zone play, Pierce knocks Mason into the backfield, which prevents Burkhead from cutting through the A gap, and forces him to stretch the play outside where the safety (playing LB) can make the tackle in the backfield. Pierce also drew a holding call on this play.
Pierce consistently shows play recognition skills. Here, he keeps his eyes in the backfield, and has the quickness and technique to use a swim move to position himself in front of White. He doesn’t make the tackle, but he kills the play.
Pierce has great natural leverage (in other words, he’s short). At just 6′, he has an advantage staying low against taller offensive linemen. In the above, you can see him use that leverage to knock the double team into the backfield. The play picks up a first down, but if that’s Eric Kendricks triggering on the run, it may have been a TFL.
Michael Pierce is a more than adequate replacement for Linval Joseph. In fact, he may be a bit of an upgrade, as Joseph’s level of play was declining. He’s four years younger, and about $4 million cheaper per year. Pierce will be the anchor that the Vikings will set their DL around for the next few years.
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