Crossroads with safety Andrew Sendejo
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Are the Minnesota Vikings at a crossroads with safety Andrew Sendejo?

In 2016, the Minnesota Vikings signed soon-to-be free agent Andrew Sendejo to a four-year, $16 million contract extension. It was quite the deal for a safety who hadn’t even started a full season in the NFL.

However, the Vikings protected themselves. The terms of the contract gave the team a potential out after just two years. That time is almost here. Considering Sendejo’s remaining deal is both hefty and no longer guaranteed, his future as a Viking may be in doubt after the season.

Sendejo is 29 years old and under contract through 2019. He is due to make $3 million in 2017, $3.5 million in 2018, and $5.5 million in 2019. The Vikings can cut him anytime after the season without a dead cap penalty because there is no guaranteed money in his contract after 2017.

The issue, despite the sizable contract, is Sendejo hasn’t given the Vikings a reason to let him go. The seventh-year veteran has continued to improve during his time in Minnesota. The question is, can we expect this improvement to continue?

FOOTBALL CAREER AND PRODUCTION

2006-09 – Played college football at Rice and went undrafted in the 2010 NFL Draft.

2010 – Played for the Sacramento Mountain Lions of the UFL.

  • Tied for second in the league in tackles.
  • Nov. 24 – Signed by Dallas Cowboys to practice squad as undrafted free agent. Played in two games.

2011 – Sep. 3 – Waived by Cowboys.

  • Sep. 4 – Claimed by New York Jets off waivers. Released nine days later.
  • Nov. 29 – Signed by Vikings as a free agent.
  • Started the last three games of the season.

2012 – Ranked fourth on the team in special teams tackles

2013 – Started 10 games at safety in place of an injured Harrison Smith.

  • Recorded 84 tackles and his first career interception.

2014 – Started last three games in place of an injured Robert Blanton.

  • Led the team in special teams tackles.

2015 –  Beat out Robert Blanton as the starter. Started 13 games at strong safety.

  • Registered 74 tackles, three pass deflections, and one interception.

2016 – Beat out veteran Michael Griffin for the starting job in 2016.

  • Had 69 tackles, four pass deflections and two interceptions.
  • Agreed to a four-year, $16 million extension with the Vikings.

Sendejo did not have an easy path to the NFL. His senior season at Rice was cut short after he suffered a severe high ankle sprain that required surgery. As a result, “Dejo” went undrafted in the 2010 NFL Draft.

Despite the setback, Sendejo still earned his way onto an NFL roster. Originally a special teams standout, his work ethic and attention to detail have now made him a starter on one of the NFL’s best defenses.

OVERVIEW

The starting strong safety for the Vikings, known for delivering big hits, is 6’1,” and 210 pounds.

While he wasn’t graded particularly well by Pro Football Focus in 2015, the following year was statistically the best season of Sendejo’s career. In 14 starts, the 29 year-old had two interceptions, two fumble recoveries, four passes deflected and 69 tackles.

Based off his football career and production up to this point, it’s evident that Sendejo has shown noticeable improvement in his overall game.

FIT WITH THE VIKINGS

Sendejo may not be flashy, but he’s a disciplined, consistent football player. He’s very familiar with his brethren in the Vikings secondary, and as we all know, continuity is highly sought-after in the NFL.

The hard-striking Sendejo gets along well with his teammates. His colleagues rely on him to be at the right place on the field and to handle the correct assignments, which is crucial when it comes to the last line of defense. That is of particular importance for Sendejo’s co-safety, Harrison Smith.

Smith is the featured playmaker of the defense and perhaps the best safety in the NFL. By using Sendejo and his reliability to free up Smith, the defense has a better chance to disrupt opposing offenses and cause turnovers. Sendejo’s dependability is an important facet of the Vikings secondary.

The safety also has a good relationship with Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer. According to Matt Vensel of the Star Tribune, when asked about the players vying for the starting safety position next to Smith last August, Zimmer told reporters:

“Sendejo’s a quick reactor. He’s very smart; he’s a good downhill player, good tackler. Playing in the deep part of the field, that area of the field is where, if he can improve in that spot, that would help.”

Basically, what Zimmer said was, outside of playing the deep ball, Sendejo is a good player. And as far as playing the deep ball, that’s an area where Sendejo and the Vikings have improved. In 2016, the Vikings’ defense ranked third in the NFL in passing yards per game. By comparison, they ranked 12th in 2015 and seventh in 2014. In 2013, Sendejo’s first year as a major contributor, they ranked 31st.

CONCLUSION

The opportunities Sendejo earned in the NFL have been a direct result of his hard work. He has persevered in times of adversity, and there’s no reason to think that will change.

He has worked hard to learn his assignments so his teammate Harrison Smith can make plays. He has become a better defender of the deep ball. And perhaps most importantly, he has continued to improve as a Viking.

At age 29, Sendejo is not the Vikings’ long-term answer at safety. He is, however, the starter for the foreseeable future. With 2016 seventh-round pick Jayron Kearse looming in the shadows, Sendejo will have to continue to play well and improve if he wants to keep his job next season.

Due to his sizable contract, there’s no room for Sendejo on the roster if he is not a starter.