Vikings sign defensive backs Derron Smith and Duke Thomas

Catching up on a busy few days of transactions for the Vikings.

The Minnesota Vikings on Friday announced the signing of two former Alliance of American Football players. Defensive backs Derron Smith (pictured above) and Duke Thomas were added to the roster. Both defenders played for the San Antonio Commanders of the AAF.

Derron Smith

Smith (5-10, 200) is a safety who played collegiately at Fresno State. He was drafted in the sixth-round of the 2015 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals. During the 2017 season he was signed off the Bengals practice squad and joined the Cleveland Browns’ active roster. He played out 2017 with the Browns and was released prior to the 2018 season.

In two plus seasons with the Bengals he appeared in 31 games, mainly playing special teams. Smith appeared in seven games with the Browns and was waived during roster cuts before the 2018 season.

He signed with the Commanders of the AAF in December. In eight games for San Antonio he had three interceptions and broke up five passes while collecting a total of 37 tackles. His eight defensive stops were a top-10 figure among safeties according to PFF.

Smith was named the AAF Player of the Year by Pro Football Focus. He was the highest-graded player in the league. Cam Mellor of PFF wrote “Smith was absolutely dominant on the backend for the Commanders. He was strong in coverage, run defense and with his tackling, all leading to the top overall grade among all players in the AAF.”

The 27 year-old was given a two-year deal by the Vikings.

Duke Thomas

Thomas (5-10, 192) played college football at Texas. The Texas native signed with the Houston Texans as an undrafted free agent in 2016. He was released during roster cuts but joined the Philadelphia Eagles’ practice squad soon after. From there he jumped around to the 49ers and Cowboys’ practice squads. In Dallas he was placed on IR and missed the 2017 season with an injury.

Last October, Thomas had a short stint in the CFL with the practice squad of the Toronto Argonauts. He was released a few weeks later but received an opportunity with the AAF’s San Antonio Commanders after that.

The journeyman had a team-high 22 tackles with an interception and a fumble recovery for the Commanders. Now, he’s a Minnesota Viking after inking a one-year deal. Up to this point the 24 year-old has never taken part in a regular season NFL game.

Thomas’ signing became official the same day the NFL announced Vikings cornerback Holton Hill would be suspended four games to begin the 2019 season.

Secondary depth

With the addition of Smith and Thomas, here’s a look at the Vikings’ defensive backfield:



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Sean Borman

Sean Borman is a writer with Minnesota roots that's still somehow an optimist. He was an intern with the Vikings during college and is an IT nerd by day. You can find Sean on the golf course and on Twitter @SeanBormanNFL.

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Gordon Guffey
Gordon Guffey
1 year ago

Hopefully this is the shot they need to show they can play in the NFL~I’m not counting on it but I’m hopeful for both~Got to love a good football story~I hope to read about them playing well even if its on ST~

1 year ago

Nice to see that we signed the AAF’s best player, according to PFF. Even nicer that we signed him to a two-year contract; that tells me that he’s not seen as just a camp body, and the coaches might actually believe he could win the fourth safety job. I think we still draft a safety and a corner on Day 3, but at least there should be some real competition for the S4 and CB6 jobs.