In just the last week alone, the Minnesota Vikings have signed three cornerbacks to their roster. It’s an unusual play for an NFL team to sign so many free agents after the first waves of availability and after the draft. These three (Henderson, Breeland & Smith) join three more in Patrick Peterson, Mackensie Alexander and Parry Nickerson who have all joined the Vikings since free agency opened up.
That makes it a total of SIX new CBs out of TEN total CBs on roster right now as the team moves through OTAs and prepares for MiniCamp.
So why the overhaul? And what’s the deal with so many late in the process signings just this last week?
I mean, the answer to the first question should be rather obvious. The overhaul is happening because the defense struggled last year.
2020 stats will show the Vikings pass defense was lower third in the league in most categories last year and their run defense was even worse. Then you trade Mike Hughes and run into an unplanned off-the-field incident with Jeff Gladney and you’re not only thin at the position but looking for improvement as well.
For the answer to the second question we’ll have to factor in the aforementioned off-the-field situation with Jeff Gladney. The Vikings likely had high hopes for Gladney’s inclusion in the defense for the 2021 season. He was your first round pick just a year ago, started figuring things out last season and had worked his way to what looked to be a significant role. Then BAM, the inexcusable incident occurs and it’s unlikely that Gladney will factor into the team’s plans this year.
On top of that, in what can only be considered a pretty big shock, the Vikings didn’t select a single cornerback in the entirety of their 2021 Draft Class. That’s likely the outcome of having other needs mixed in with the way that the draft shook out. But given the defensive struggles last year, the Gladney situation (which remember, happened BEFORE the draft) and then Mike Zimmer’s affinity for defense and CBs specifically, it is quite surprising that they walked away with 11 picks and no CBs. Even their additional 11 undrafted free agents didn’t include a CB. That’s 22 players from the draft and not a single corner, that’s nightmare fuel for someone like Mike Zimmer.
So this left the team a little bit stuck.
You started with a thin CB corps, then you lose an expected starter, you trade another depth guy…now what? All that is left to do is scour the market and see what’s out there. Cue Smith, Cue Breeland and Cue Henderson.
I’d be remiss not to mention that this feels like grasping at straws a bit, but the possibility remains that the Vikings could find gold that surfaces out of this unfortunate situation.
Of all the new faces, Patrick Peterson and Mackensie Alexander will likely have the upperhand to contribute. Peterson brings high level talent and experience to the table while Alexander brings familiarity with the system. From there, we’re probably looking at Breeland as the only other newcomer who might crack the starting lineup.
With 88 starts under his belt, Breeland is a proven commodity who brings experience to the table, something that the CBs in Minnesota are lacking desperately. His time in KC ended with what would seem to be differing personalities more than a dramatic drop off in play so there’s something there to maybe get excited about.
Still, this much turnover right before the offseason programs begin isn’t usually a sign of a strong position group. That being said, at least it’s happening now and not AFTER the offseason.