Former Vikings Safety Feels Disrespected, and He’s Right.

Jun 11, 2019; Eagan, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings safety Jayron Kearse. Mandatory Credit: Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports.

Former Minnesota Vikings safety Jayron Kearse landed with the Dallas Cowboys in free agency last year, experiencing a breakout season worthy of recognition.

But recognition has yet to arrive.

ESPN ranked the Top 10 safeties in the NFL this weekend, derived from polling of players, executives, and coaches. The article even had honorable mentions and players “receiving votes” outside the Top 10 and honorable mention category.

Kearse was nowhere to be found in the rankings.

Vikings Broncos
Nov 17, 2019; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Denver Broncos tight end Noah Fant (87) is unable to catch a pass against Minnesota Vikings defensive back Jayron Kearse (27) at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ben Ludeman-USA TODAY Sports.

And the Clemson alumnus evidently took issue with ESPN’s pecking order, tweeting his disgruntlement on Sunday.

An hour later, Kearse added context.

Kearse has reasonable cause to call out the disrespect. In 2021, Pro Football Focus graded him the 13th-best safety in football, which should command respect from peers. In fact, most of Kearse’s PFF resume is as impressive as it is overlooked:

  • 2021: 76.8
  • 2020: 55.7
  • 2019: 89.0
  • 2018: 67.9
  • 2017: 65.6
  • 2016: 58.4

While he isn’t an All-Pro caliber player, Kearse has never produced a “bad” season. His immediate acclimation to the Cowboys system was particularly noteworthy.

Thankfully for Kearse, the perceived disrespect has no on-the-field implication. Kearse is slated to start again in 2022 as Dallas’ strong safety next to teammate Malik Hooker. Dallas has a rapidly ascending defense — that was terrible as little as two years ago — with linebacker Micah Parsons and cornerback Trevon Diggs leading the charge. Ex-Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr has even been whispered in the rumor mill as a candidate to join the Cowboys rising defense.

In the ESPN safety rankings, current Vikings safety Harrison Smith, an old teammate of Kearse’s, ranked seventh, a commendable nod of respect to a man entering his 11th season.

Here’s the full list:

  1. Justin Simmons (DEN)
  2. Minkah Fitzpatrick (PIT)
  3. Keith Byard (TEN)
  4. Derwin James (IND)
  5. Budda Baker (ARI)
  6. Jesse Bates II (CIN
  7. Harrison Smith (MIN)
  8. Marcus Williams (BAL)
  9. Antoine Winfield Jr. (TB)
  10. Jamal Adams (SEA)

Leading up to his final season with the Vikings, Kearse was arrested for DWI and a weapons violation. Many believe those arrests dampened Minnesota’s appetite for re-upping with Kearse, who ultimately left via 2020 free agency to join the Detroit Lions.

The Vikings and Cowboys play at U.S. Bank Stadium in Week 11. Dallas has won the previous two head-to-head matchups.



Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).