Safety Position Could Get Complicated for Vikings

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It’s a good problem to have — the 2023 Minnesota Vikings might have too many startable safeties.

Safety Position Could Get Complicated for Vikings

For now, this is the group on the active roster:

S1: Harrison Smith
S2: Camryn Bynum
S3: Josh Metellus
S4: Lewis Cine
S5: Jay Ward
S6: Theo Jackson

That list’s ‘order’ is approximate, as the Vikings depth chart won’t be revealed for 2.5 months. Moreover, rookie Jay Ward could end up getting utilized more as a slot cornerback. We shall see.

But on the rest, well, it’s complicated.

Safety Position Could
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Foremost, Harrison Smith will start, so cross him off the complicated section. Smith enters Year 12 in the NFL and is a virtual lock to start at strong safety. He even accepted a paycut this offseason to remain with the club that drafted him in 2012.

After Smith, however, complications set in — in a good way.

On paper, Camryn Bynum is probably considered the starting free safety if the regular season started today. Why? Well, that was his job last year, and it’s his to lose in 2023 via incumbency. Pro Football Focus also projected Bynum as the starter opposite Smith this season.

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And while Bynum played every defensive snap for the 2022 Vikings (!!!), his performance was mid-level. He tabulated a 58.2 PFF grade, ranking 68th of 88 eligible safeties. That mark isn’t horrible, but it isn’t an untouchable grade with the ‘other guys’ on the roster.

Yes, by ‘other guys,’ that’s Lewis Cine and Josh Metellus. Cine simply has to start sooner than later, or he’ll be classified with a naughty ‘bust’ label. Perhaps that isn’t Week 1 for the Vikings — that’s to be determined — but tunneling deep into the 2023 season without significant playing time for Cine would be strange. He was the first draft pick of the Kwesi Adofo-Mensah era, and after recovering from a broken leg suffered against the New Orleans Saints in London last October, the man is a full-go at Minnesota’s organized team activities and mandatory minicamp.

Cross 1 Big Vikings
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If Adofo-Mensah is to be called an adept scout and drafter of talent, Cine must play significant defensive snaps before too long. Meanwhile, Adofo-Mensah is also enamored with Cine’s teammate, Josh Metellus.

Asked on The Season with Peter Schrager podcast by NFL Network’s Peter Schrager about the Vikings’ unsung hero,’ Adofo-Mensah immediately dropped Metellus’ name and elaborated, “He’s a safety, and he’ll play some more this year, so I think you’ll see the stuff that we’ve seen. He was a special teams stalwart last year, team-captain type. I was in the team meeting room later in the season after [Brian O’Neill] got hurt, [Metellus] was given team captain.”

The Vikings Have a Brand
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“You can feel when somebody’s teammates really love them, really appreciate them, and really want to follow them into battle, and he’s one of those guys. He’s everything that the Minnesota Vikings are about, and I think people are really going to appreciate that more this season,” Adofo-Mensah continued.

That statement feels like a guaranteed roster spot for Metellus — at a position where the Vikings have snap-hungry men like Smith, Bynum, Cine, and perhaps the rookie Ward.

Put your thinking cap on when formulating Vikings roster projections this summer because it’s Smith, the veteran — and three men vying for the gig next to Smith. And they all have a reasonable case for the assignment.

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 Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by