The rumor mill was in full swing. Some reported a push to re-sign Anthony Harris. Others said a possible reunion with Mackenzie Alexander. A Keanu Neal hybrid safety/linebacker was also thrown in the mix. Most recently, rumors seemed to revolve around Richard Sherman. Fortunately, in this case, there is truth to all rumors, doesn’t apply here. Instead, the Vikings made a splash (unexpected) signing by bringing in Patrick Peterson, the 8-time Pro Bowler out of LSU. The former Cardinal will don the purple and gold once more, perhaps in the last hurrah of his career. https://twitter.com/NFL/status/1372353635980513283
Ben Goessling reported that Patrick Peterson will be joining the organization on a one-year deal with an $8 million base salary. Peterson can earn up to an additional $2 million with playing time and an All-Pro incentive. The expected cap hit is estimated to be about $9 million and it appears that Rob Brzezinski was able to work his magic once again.
You don’t turn into an 8-time Pro-Bowler overnight. Throughout his career, Peterson has been one of the best at his position. 2018 was his most recent elite year, in which he finished the season with a pass coverage grade of 83.7, to go along with 2 interceptions and one sack.
More importantly, Peterson looks to fill a much-needed void as a veteran leader at the cornerback position. The hope is he can mentor and take the young corners (Cam Dantzler and Jeff Gladney) under his wing. Think of a Terrance Newman type of role. Despite their growth in their rookie season, the two were thrown in the fire from the get-go. Having an entire offseason under Zimmer and now Peterson, look for the two to take a huge step forward in 2021.
In terms of Peterson’s production, the Vikings are hopeful Peterson can return to his 2018 form. Peterson should be in a prime position to do so, as he will transition from a man-heavy defense to Zimmer’s Cover-2 looks. Add in the fact that Zimmer is the DB Whisperer and has a history of revitalizing careers. With Newman again being his last, it will be astonishing if Peterson struggles with his new squad.
Father-time Catching up?
What’s that old saying? That’s right, father-time is undefeated. Well, unless your name is Tom Brady, of course. Patrick Peterson, who will turn 31 in July this is undoubtedly a concern for the Vikings. Especially when you consider the fact that Peterson’s play has been on the decline. In 2019, P2 finished the season with an overall grade of 68.6, down almost 14 whole points from 2018. The trend continued in 2020 where Peterson finished the season with an overall grade of 55.2. On top of that, Peterson led the league penalties. Viking fans already saying, oh no, is this a repeat of the Xavier Rhodes situation?
It seems unlikely the Vikings sign a CB for $8 million and expect a repeat of his 2020 season. Zimmer and Co have earned the benefit of the doubt to turn Peterson’s career around. With significant investment in him, it would be unfair to believe otherwise.
For the record, his 55.2 overall grade might not be as big of a concern when you factor in that Peterson did have 3 interceptions and combined for 61 tackles (a career-high). His three-interceptions are also tied for his second-highest output in a single season. His tackling ability and play-making ability alone will provide an upgrade to the young secondary. It is also a possibility Peterson transitions to safety, leaving Hughes and Dantzler on the outside with Gladney in the slot. This option would put Peterson in a position to succeed and allow for the best players to be on the field at all times.
After fielding one of the league’s worst defensive units, Zimmer put his foot down this offseason. One can only imagine how hard Zimmer pounded on the table for Speilman to sign impact players on the defensive side of the ball. The two did just that. With the addition of Dalvin Tomlinson and Patrick Peterson, combined with numerous starters on the front-seven, indeed, the cavalry is coming.
In terms of free agency, the Vikings should be left with about $6 million left to spend. Taking into account Thielen restructuring his contract. Discussions are also being held for a possible Harrison Smith extension. Plus, they could still restructure other deals if needed. Their top priority should now be finding a way to keep Danielle Hunter. Hunter is certainly one of the best players in the league and deserves to be paid as such. After taking care of Danielle, the Vikings will need to find a way to find a serviceable guard and WR3 for a relatively low price tag. Perhaps, Peterson can lure his former teammate Larry Fitzgerald to Minnesota.
All in all, this is just another sign Zimmer is going all-in with his defense in 2021. Already this unit will look entirely different from the squad they fielded in 2020. Undoubtedly, this will be a much-improved defense; it might even return to the elite status they have been accustomed to. How big of an improvement remains a mystery. Will it be enough to contend with the Packers? Is a deep-playoff run in the works? It is an odd-numbered year, after all. Indeed, only time will tell all.