The Minnesota Vikings bolstered their linebacking corps on Monday by signing Desmond Bishop, but where Bishop fits in on his new team still needs to be settled. Bishop developed into one of the better 3-4 inside linebackers in the NFL, but that doesn't mean he'll immediately slot into middle linebacker in Minnesota.
The Vikings moved Erin Henderson to middle linebacker this offseason and neither he nor head coach Leslie Frazier seem too keen on shifting him out of that role. Henderson was blunt when asked if he would be willing to move back to outside linebacker if the team signed Bishop. Via Kfan 100.3:
"It's cool," Henderson told reporters following the first day of Vikings Mini Camp at Winter Park. "I hope it goes well for him and the Vikings like what they see...It's like I said, I'll welcome him with open arms. I'm not really sure what it's about, I'm just employee number fifty and I'm just going to come out here and do what I can do on the field."
Asked if he would be willing to move over to his former position of "will" linebacker to make room for Bishop in the middle, Henderson responded curtly saying, "I'm playing the mike."
Frazier wasn't quite as clear-cut as Henderson, but praised Henderson's work at middle linebacker after a recent offseason workout.
"It seems like watching him in the OTAs, some of the things we're asking him to do in pass coverage, that he can handle it," Frazier said, via Kevin Seifert of ESPN. "It seems that way. Now the next step is when we get to training camp to see how he can handle some of the run things that will be required of him."
If Henderson is set on playing middle linebacker and the Vikings are planning to keep him there it would make sense to slot Bishop in at outside linebacker, but he may not be an ideal fit there. Adam Caplan asked two NFL executives about Bishop's strengths and weaknesses and the negatives included a lack of speed and coverage ability. Bishop was pegged as a two-down linebacker who can be exposed when isolated in coverage. Those weaknesses could make him an awkward fit at outside linebacker, a position Henderson has excelled at during his career.
So would the Vikings really play two players out of position instead of transitioning Henderson back to outside linebacker? Maybe. According to Tom Pelissero of ESPN 1500, the Vikings will use Bishop at both middle and outside linebacker during training camp. That could set up a training camp battle between Henderson and Bishop for the starting middle linebacker job, a competition Henderson sounded prepared for even before Bishop signed.
"I have a chance to play 'Mike' right now," Henderson said, via ESPN.com. "And I don't see why I would let it slip out of my hands. That's what my mindset is."