As the cash-strapped Vikings prepare for a possible defensive back overhaul during free agency, they’ll need to focus their efforts on value options. Breaking the bank for an expensive cornerback doesn’t make a whole lot of sense considering their cap situation. So who might be a player that better fits the bill?
Pro Football Focus on Wednesday explored one free agent each NFL team should pursue in the 2020. This player may realistically be one of the Vikings’ top targets once free agency begins.
“Since Week 5 of the 2016 season, Jason Verrett has played only 67 snaps. The ‘Niners gave him a shot, but he couldn’t stay healthy. He’ll be a free agent this offseason, and the team with the lowest cap space available — the Minnesota Vikings — needs to give him another shot, as they don’t really have many better options. The Minnesota cornerbacks produced the 28th-ranked coverage grade this past year, and if Verrett can get healthy, he’d make a big impact. In Verrett’s rookie campaign in 2014, he was limited to only 156 coverage snaps due to injury but managed to produce a solid 82.5 coverage grade. In his only (mostly) healthy season in 2015, Verrett was the NFL’s highest-graded cornerback in PFF coverage grade at 90.9.”
Verrett (5-10, 188) signed a 1-year, $3.6 million deal with the San Francisco 49ers last offseason, but he will not be playing in the Super Bowl in two weeks. The 28 year-old was placed on injured reserve Oct. 3 because of an knee injury. He appeared in one game this season, playing 14 snaps in a loss against the Steelers on Sep. 22.
Originally a first-round pick (#25 overall) of the San Diego Chargers in 2014, Verrett has struggled mightily with injuries throughout his career. He missed the entire 2018 season with a torn Achilles. Verrett played in only one game in 2017 and four games in 2016 due to knee injuries. His rookie season, 2014, was cut short because of a hamstring and tears to his labrum and rotator cuff.
In 2015, however, Verrett made the Pro Bowl. In 14 starts he had 47 tackles, 12 passes defensed and three interceptions including one returned for a touchdown. As noted above, he was PFF’s highest-graded corner in terms of coverage. So when healthy, it’s fair to say he’s capable of playing at a first-round level.
But because of his extensive injury history, is he worth the risk?
The Vikings are currently above the salary cap. They can return to a more favorable financial situation with just a few maneuvers, but limited spending money means they’ll certainly be looking for value in free agency. Verrett is one player they could acquire to address the CB position, but until he proves otherwise he can’t be relied upon as someone that can make it through a whole season healthy.