In 2015, the second draft of Mike Zimmer’s career, the organization selected the first one of three cornerbacks in the first round of his tenure. Trae Waynes was selected with the 11th overall pick.
The cornerback played his college football for the Michigan State Spartans. His elite speed made him a desirable prospect in the draft. In his rookie season, Waynes didn’t play much, as he just recorded 195 defensive snaps. After struggling as a rookie, his workload increased in 2016, his second year, and he managed to play over 500 snaps, 60% of the defensive plays. In his final three seasons in Minnesota, he started all 44 games he played opposite Xavier Rhodes. The cornerback tandem played a significant role in the feared 2017 defense that carried the franchise to the NFC Championship Game. Waynes has always been an elite defensive back against the run and helped the defense stop opposing running backs regularly.
After spending his first five years with the Vikings and recording seven interceptions, the former first-rounder left in free agency and signed a huge contract. The Bengals and the cornerback agreed to a three-year, $42 million deal. The loss of Rhodes and Waynes directly contributed to the defensive struggles that had Mike Zimmer fired after the 2021 season.
Sadly, he missed the first year of that contract on injury reserve with a torn pectoral. Before the 2021 season even started, Waynes injured his hamstring and missed the start of the year. Later, he aggravated his injury and was again placed on injured reserve. He played just five games for the Bengals before the franchise released him this offseason.
The cornerback doesn’t rule out playing again, but it doesn’t sound like it’s the likely outcome.
“I mean it’s open but I’m not really exploring anything to be honest with you. Multiple teams have actually called, but in my head I’m done. I’m not officially doing it, I’d say, just because I don’t do that shit. I’m retired, but it’s not like I announced it or anything.”
After 79 NFL games and before turning 30, the former Viking retired from the NFL.
Waynes added that he was close to signing with the Eagles and playing for former Vikings assistant coach Jonathan Gannon, now defensive coordinator in Philadelphia.
The former Vikings first-rounder also seemed to be concerned about life after football. He said he always wanted to walk away from the game on his terms, and “all the stuff happening with these former players, it kind of makes you nervous.”
Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. He chose the Vikings as his favorite team, despite Christian Ponder being the quarterback at the time. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt