When healthy, Anthony Barr ranks as one of the best linebackers in the NFL. Capable of covering tight ends, rushing the passer, and stopping the run, the highly-athletic seventh-year pro has become one of the most valuable players on the Minnesota Vikings.
However, Mike Zimmer’s team just suffered a brutal blow to their Super Bowl chances. With Barr suffering a season-ending injury, the Viking must turn to a rookie draft pick to replace his production on defense.
Anthony Barr signed a lucrative contract extension last offseason
In a league full of elite athletes, Anthony Barr ranks among the very best. At UCLA, he played offense for two years before transitioning to linebacker as a junior. After showcasing the ability to rush the passer, drop into coverage, and stop the run, Barr became a highly-coveted NFL draft prospect. Ultimately, the Vikings took the talented linebacker with the ninth pick of the 2014 NFL draft.
As a 22-year-old rookie, Barr started 12 games and recorded 70 tackles, four sacks, seven quarterback hits, three fumble recoveries, and two forced fumbles. In 2015, he earned his first of four consecutive Pro Bowl berths after stuffing the stat sheet again. While Barr has never become an elite edge rusher, he provides Mike Zimmer with a versatile defensive weapon.
Last offseason, the 6-foot-5, 255-pound linebacker finally got his chance to cash in on his early success. Barr actually appeared to have left Minnesota behind for the New York Jets. However, he changed his mind and signed a five-year, $67.5 million contract to remain a Viking. Barr responded by totaling a career-high 79 tackles in his age-27 season.
Barr suffers season-ending injury
Heading into the second year of his lucrative deal, Anthony Barr looked to lead a Vikings defense that lost several key pieces this offseason. Everson Griffen left Minnesota for Dallas. Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander signed with the Cincinnati Bengals. Linval Joseph and Andrew Sendejo also found new NFL homes this spring.
Yet, after acquiring Yannick Ngakoue to go along with established stars in Barr, Eric Kendricks, and Harrison Smith, the Vikings entered the 2020 season with their sights set on another playoff run. However, on Sunday, Minnesota suffered a brutal blow to its chances of making the postseason.
On Monday, Ian Rapoport reported via Twitter that Barr tore his pec during the team’s 28-11 loss to the Indianapolis Colts. The injury will sideline the four-time Pro Bowler for the remainder of the season.
Minnesota faces a tall task in replacing a player who rarely comes off the field. In fact, since entering the NFL, Barr has played an average of 84% of the Vikings’ defensive snaps each year. Now, a rookie draft pick will have to step up with Minnesota’s $68 million star out for the year.
Troy Dye must step up for the Vikings
Anthony Barr’s injury leaves a gaping hole on defense. If the Vikings plan on contending for a playoff spot, they need rookie Troy Dye to make a quick transition from college to the NFL.
Minnesota selected the 6-foot-3, 231-pound linebacker with the 132nd overall pick in April. The former Oregon standout does not bring Barr’s length or overall size, but the athletic former Pac-12 star did produce at a high level for the Ducks.
Dye finished his four-year college career with 391 total tackles (41.5 for loss), 13 sacks, five interceptions, 14 passes defended, and four forced fumbles. He posted back-to-back 100-tackle campaigns before seeing his numbers dip slightly as a senior.
Ultimately, the fourth-round pick will have to learn on the fly as the Vikings try and get by without one of their top players. After Barr left Sunday’s game, Dye ended up playing 21 defensive snaps. He did not record a single tackle.
Heading into a tough Week 3 matchup against the Tennessee Titans, he will have to contend with the league’s most intimidating power back, as well as Ryan Tannehill, who has picked up right where he left off last season.
If Minnesota hopes to make a second straight postseason appearance, the team desperately needs Troy Dye to replace Anthony Barr’s production.
Otherwise, it will be a long season for Vikings fans.