Kene Nwangwu

Vikings Place OLB Marcus Davenport On IR, Activate KR Kene Nwangwu

Minnesota’s Danielle HunterMarcus Davenport edge-rushing partnership hit a snag with a Davenport injury. That will lead to a paused season for the free agency pickup.

The Vikings placed Davenport on IR on Wednesday, shelving the former Saints first-rounder until at least Week 11. Davenport is battling a high ankle sprain. In addition to the Davenport transaction, the Vikings activated running back/kick returner Kene Nwangwu from IR and designated wide receiver Jalen Nailor for return from IR.

While Nwangwu represents Minnesota’s first IR activation this season, Davenport will be on track to join him later. The Vikings gave Davenport a one-year, $13MM deal this offseason, bringing him in to replace Za’Darius Smith. This move led to uncertainty at Minnesota’s edge positions, with Smith remaining on the roster for several weeks ahead of a trade to Cleveland. While Smith is now part of a top-tier Browns defense, the Pro Bowler has yet to record a sack. Davenport, who notched a half-sack despite playing 15 games last season, has two through six Vikes contests.

Davenport, 27, and Hunter are together for now, but the Vikings’ edge situation is not settled from a long-term standpoint. Neither starter is signed beyond 2023, and Hunter profiles as one of this season’s top trade candidates. The ninth-year Viking has eight sacks thus far, pacing the NFL. Davenport’s injury weakens the Vikings’ pass rush and likely prevents them from dealing the 2018 first-rounder. The Vikes did make a seller’s trade involving an edge rusher three years ago, trading Yannick Ngakoue to the Ravens. But Davenport’s injury probably squashes his market, with the trade deadline Oct. 31.

The team considered Hunter trades this offseason, and with Kevin O’Connell‘s squad starting 2-4, it will be interesting to see if the defending NFC North champions consider moving on. But Hunter may still be in Minnesota’s long-term plans. For Davenport, this injury hurts his chances of putting quality production on film for a potential 2024 free agency push. It also hurts Davenport’s hopes of showing he can provide consistency. His up-and-down New Orleans tenure led to a “prove it” deal in March.

Nwangwu returned to practice Oct. 11. The Vikings have not used the third-year back much in the backfield, but the Iowa State alum has been one of the NFL’s best kick returners during his career. Nwangwu is the only NFLer to have tallied three kick-return touchdowns since the start of the 2021 season. Nyheim Hines is the only other player with even two kick-return scores. Nwangwu, 25, will stand to give the Vikings a boost on special teams.

Vikings Place Nick Mullens On IR, Bring Back Sean Mannion; Kene Nwangwu Designated For Return

In addition to making the Justin Jefferson IR move official, the Vikings made a few more notable transactions Wednesday. The team now has a familiar face back in the quarterback room.

Sean Mannion is returning on a practice squad deal, the team announced. Kirk Cousins‘ on-again, off-again backup spent last season on the Seahawks’ practice squad but has not been with a team since January. The team also moved Cousins’ current backup, Nick Mullens, to IR.

Mullens is battling a back injury, one that kept him from dressing in Week 5. The former 49ers spot starter has been with the Vikings for the past two seasons, arriving as an August 2022 trade acquisition and backing up Cousins last season. Minnesota re-signed the seventh-year veteran to a two-year, $4MM contract in March. This move will drop Mullens off the 53-man roster for at least four weeks.

Mannion, 31, spent the better part of three seasons with the Vikings. Initially signing with Minnesota after his Rams rookie contract expired in 2019, Mannion operated as Cousins’ backup from 2019-20. While Mannion signed with the Seahawks in August 2021, he ended up back in place as Cousins’ top reserve — over third-rounder Kellen Mond, who quickly wore out his welcome with the team — soon after. The Vikings released Mannion in August 2022, going with Mullens after the Browns trade.

These transactions leave Cousins and fifth-round rookie Jaren Hall as the only QBs on Minnesota’s 53-man roster. Mannion would make sense as an elevation for Week 6, seeing as he has spent extensive time in this role. That said, Mannion was Minnesota’s QB2 before Kevin O’Connell‘s arrival. The ex-Jared Goff St. Louis/Los Angeles QB2 did play under former O’Connell Rams coworker Shane Waldron in Seattle. This is basically a moot point, as Cousins as not missed a game due to injury in his six Vikings seasons.

The Vikings also designated running back/kick returner Kene Nwangwu for return from IR. Nwangwu hit IR shortly after cutdown day. The third-year back has been Minnesota’s kick returner for the past two seasons. The Iowa State product already has three kick-return touchdowns since debuting; he finished as a second-team All-Pro last season. Only one other player — Nyheim Hines — has more than one kick-return TD since 2021, highlighting the upgrade the Vikes’ special teams could receive once Nwangwu is activated. The Vikings, who have not used any IR activations this season, have three weeks to activate the 25-year-old specialist.

To wrap this brigade of Wednesday Minnesota moves, the team signed N’Keal Harry to the active roster from its practice squad. The former Patriots first-rounder has played in two games as a P-squad elevation. The team also signed receiver Trishton Jackson from its P-squad. Tight end Troy Fumagalli and wideout Dan Chisena will join Mannion in catching on with the team’s taxi squad.

Latest On Vikings’ RB Situation

With former star running back Dalvin Cook officially off the team, it’s now apparently the Alexander Mattison-era in Minnesota, according to Kevin Seifert of ESPN. Mattison’s opportunities in his first four seasons have been extremely limited due to Cook’s hold on the position, but with Cook a free agent, Mattison now gets the opportunity to perform as a three-down back.

In 2022, Cook and Mattison split nearly all the offensive snaps at running back at about a 75-25 split. Other running backs only saw the field on special teams or in garbage time. Mattison hasn’t been Cook’s RB2 because he is a perfect complement to Cook, Mattison has been the first back off the bench because he has been the team’s second best running back, period. Mattison could likely have earned starts on other teams around the league, if given the opportunity. Instead, he’s mentored behind Cook and taken advantage of the few playing opportunities he’s been given.

In eight games where Mattison has either started or seen significant carries (12 or over), Mattison has 589 rushing yards and three touchdowns. That’s with sporadic opportunities. With consistent starts and usage, Mattison could definitely find a rhythm that makes him a strong three-down back. With Mattison firmly planted in the lead-back role and no other backs getting serious time in 2022, who’s the favorite off the bench in Minnesota?

The one big thing that Mattison lacks in comparison to Cook is explosive speed. The Vikings have heaps of that in both Ty Chandler and Kene Nwangwu. Chandler impressed many with a 4.38-second 40-yard dash before getting drafted in the fifth round last year out of North Carolina. He only appeared in three games last season, though, spending most of his rookie year on injured reserve.

Nwangwu is already a recognizable name, which is impressive without having made an offensive impact in two seasons. He’s recognizable because Nwangwu has forced his way onto the field as a kick returner, earning second-team All-Pro honors last year. He’s yet to score an offensive touchdown but has three return touchdowns over his first two years in the league.

Elite speed makes both Chandler and Nwangwu ideal complements to Mattison. Chandler likely gets the edge here, though, due to his ability in the passing game. In five seasons of college football, Chandler caught 73 balls for 681 yards and four touchdowns. In opportunities during last year’s preseason, Chandler showed surprising effectiveness running inside, as well. He appears to be the most well-rounded backup to complement Mattison, but after missing so much time last year, he’ll have to prove he can stay on the field and effectively serve as RB2.

Nwangwu could certainly play in the role if needed. He provides the top-end speed that Mattison lacks and showed a bit of promise averaging 4.7 yards per carry on 13 carries as a rookie. What could keep him out of the running is his impact on special teams. Nwangwu’s become such a key special teamer for the Vikings, that they may not want to risk throwing him out on offense consistently.

The only other back on the roster is rookie seventh-round pick DeWayne McBride out of UAB. Against Conference-USA competition, McBride was dominant over his two years as a starter. In those two years, McBride combined for 3,523 rushing yards and 32 touchdowns. Somehow both stout and shifty, McBride is hard to bring down, but he doesn’t have the speed to complement Mattison as RB2. The jump to NFL competition could also really challenge McBride as a rookie. He may be best served to bide his time until Mattison’s rookie contract runs out and try to climb the depth chart then.

So, for now, Mattison appears to be the heir apparent to take over for Cook as the team’s lead-back. Minnesota seems ready to trust him in a three-down role for the first time in his career. Behind Mattison, Chandler and Nwangwu will duke it out for the RB2 role. Even though Chandler is the favorite to win the job, Nwangwu’s roster spot is safe due to his elite return abilities. McBride provides the only depth past those three and should, at the very least, end up on the practice squad, if not on the active roster in 2023.

Minor NFL Transactions: 10/19/21

Today’s minor moves:

Carolina Panthers

Chicago Bears

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Rams

Minnesota Vikings

New York Giants

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans

Wednesday NFL Transactions: NFC North

Following the 53-man roster cutdown deadline Tuesday, many teams will make slight tweaks to their rosters. In addition to waiver claims, teams can begin constructing their 16-man practice squads today. These BearsLionsPackers and Vikings moves are noted below.

Here are Wednesday’s NFC North transactions, which will continue to be updated throughout the day.

Chicago Bears




Placed on IR:

Signed to practice squad:

Detroit Lions


Signed to practice squad:

Green Bay Packers

Signed to practice squad:

Minnesota Vikings



Placed on IR:

Signed to practice squad:

Vikings Sign Fourth-Round RB Kene Nwangwu

The Vikings have signed their sixth draft pick. Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports (via Twitter) that the team has signed fourth-round running back Kene Nwangwu. It’s a four-year pact worth $4.23MM, including a $752K+ signing bonus.

[RELATED: Vikings Sign First-Round Pick Christian Darrisaw]

Nwangwu didn’t really emerge on the NFL radar until the completion of his 2020 season. While the six-foot-one, 210-pound running back didn’t put up crazy counting stats (only 361 yards from scrimmage and four scores), he still had a solid 5.6 yards per rushing attempt (down a bit from his eye-popping 7.2 mark in 2019). Nwangwu was also productive on special teams during his college career, returning 92 kicks.

In Minnesota, the rookie will likely compete with Ameer Abdullah for the third spot on the depth chart behind Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison. His real opportunity for playing time will be in the return game, where he’ll compete with Abdullah and rookie wideout Ihmir Smith-Marsette.

The Vikings still have five of their draft picks unsigned, as our NFL Draft Results page shows:

Round 1: No. 23 (from Seahawks through Jets) Christian Darrisaw, OT (Virginia Tech) (signed)
Round 3: No. 66 (from Jets) Kellen Mond, QB (Texas A&M)
Round 3: No. 78 Chazz Surratt, LB (North Carolina)
Round 3: No. 86 (from Seahawks through Jets) Wyatt Davis, G (Ohio State)
Round 3: No. 90 (from Ravens) Patrick Jones II, DE (Pittsburgh)
Round 4: No. 119 Kene Nwangwu, RB (Iowa State) (signed)
Round 4: No. 125 (from Bears) Camryn Bynum, CB (California) (signed)
Round 4: No. 134 (from Bills) Janarius Robinson, DE (Florida State)
Round 5: No. 157 Ihmir Smith-Marsette, WR (Iowa) (signed)
Round 5: No. 168 (from Steelers through Ravens): Zach Davidson, TE (Central Missouri) (signed)
Round 6: No. 199 Jaylen Twyman, DT (Pittsburgh) (signed)