E Point Perfect

Vikings Should Pursue 1 Defender


October 20, 2022; Glendale, Ariz; USA; Cardinals Byron Murphy (7) breaks up a pass intended for Saints Tre’Wuan Smith (10) during a game at State Farm Stadium.

Nfl Cardinals Saints Photos New Orleans Saints At Arizona Cardinals

The Vikings’ defense has been a disaster since 2020, when multiple Vikings starters left in free agency.

Neither former GM Rick Spielman nor current GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has yet found a fix for the defensive unit. Drastic changes are bound to happen. In the upcoming offseason, once again, multiple Vikings defenders are set to hit free agency.

Dalvin Tomlinson’s contract is expiring, and he’ll become a free agent after two years with the organization. He was the big addition to Zimmer’s defense in 2021 and played solid football in his couple of seasons in purple. However, it’s possible that the Vikings don’t view him as valuable enough to re-sign him to a double-digit million-dollar contract.

The top three cornerbacks all played on one-year contracts. Veteran Patrick Peterson, slot cornerback Chandon Sullivan, and surprise star Duke Shelley are all scheduled to be off the team, barring a new contract.

Vikings Should Pursue 1 Defender

Vikings Should Pursue 1 Defender
Dec 17, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Ed Donatell looks on before the game against the Indianapolis Colts at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

While the defense didn’t work out, the cornerbacks individually quietly played a good season, which is why defensive coordinator Ed Donatell is on the receiving end of much of the criticism. Peterson looked much better than he did in previous seasons, but he’ll turn 33 years old during the offseason. After his promotion to the active roster in November, Shelley was a breakout star. His extension should be a priority for the Vikings.

In addition to the two outside cornerbacks, the slot cornerback is without a contract. Sullivan signed with the Vikings in the last free agency period and upgraded the position after a horrible year with Mackensie Alexander in 2021. However, he is still a below-average player at his position.

The Vikings desperately need help in the defensive backfield until rookies Andrew Booth and Akayleb Evans prove they can be the future starters.

Oct 9, 2022; Glendale, Arizona, U.S.; Philadelphia Eagles running back Miles Sanders (26) is tackled by Arizona Cardinals cornerback Byron Murphy Jr. (7) after a catch during the third quarter at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Michael Chow-USA TODAY Sports

PFF named one defender each team should pursue and assigned a cornerback to the Vikings. Brad Spielberger envisions the Vikings going after former Cardinals cornerback Byron Murphy. The cornerback was the first pick of the second round in 2019 and played 56 games for the Cardinals in the last four seasons. He started 48 games in his tenure in Arizona.

Minnesota’s struggles in the slot were exploited by nearly every team it faced in 2022, and its best cornerback all year was 32-year-old Patrick Peterson, who is a free agent in his own right. Murphy’s 2022 season was cut short by a back injury, but the former second-rounder has otherwise been durable throughout his rookie contract.

Brad Spielberger, PFF

Oct 9, 2022; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeVonta Smith (6) is tackled by Arizona Cardinals cornerback Byron Murphy Jr. (7) at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

A reliable and solid veteran player at cornerback would be a considerable upgrade. Another aspect of signing Murphy is his versatility.

Murphy isn’t just a slot cornerback and earned a career-best 66.7 overall grade through Week 9 while playing primarily out wide, but his versatility will be an asset to a defense that has question marks throughout its cornerback room. Minnesota’s decision to run it back once more in 2022 was arguably a success depending on your perspective, but it will now have to deal with the ramifications of a tough salary cap situation and an aging and very porous defense. 

 The Vikings front office will have to be methodical with how it improves the defense this offseason, and Murphy brings a lot to the table as a high-floor player with a diverse skill set.

Brad Spielberger, PFF

The Vikings, indeed, have some cap problems. However, the team can fix it by releasing some players that underperformed in 2022. Players like Eric Kendricks, Jordan Hicks, and Dalvin Cook might be on their way out.

Signing a capable cornerback would help the Vikings in their other off-season moves, allowing them to use their draft capital and the remaining cap space on other holes on the team.

What's the Vikings Biggest Strength and Weakness?
Aug 14, 2022; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Minnesota Vikings cornerback Andrew Booth Jr. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

The current cornerbacks on the roster are 2022 rookies Andrew Booth and Akayleb Evans, Cameron Dantzler, who was hurt and appeared to be benched late in the season, and practice squad candidates Kalon Barnes and Tay Gowan. A new addition is desperately needed.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. 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


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