Dark Horse Defender Could Win Vikings CB Job

Vanderbilt's cornerback Joejuan Williams runs the 40-yard dash during NFL Pro Day in Nashville on Tuesday, March 12, 2019. Pro Day 02. © Shelley Mays/The Tennessean.

The Minnesota Vikings cut ties with five — yes, five — veteran cornerbacks this offseason: Patrick Peterson (Steelers), Duke Shelley (Raiders), Chandon Sullivan (Steelers), Cameron Dantzler (Bills), and Kris Boyd (Cardinals).

Dark Horse Defender Could Win Vikings CB Job

In through the other door at CB are Byron Murphy (Cardinals), Joejuan Williams (Patriots), and rookie Mekhi Blackmon (USC).

Murphy is a shoo-in to start this September, but after him, the CB2 spot is wildly surrounded by mystery. Nobody — nobody at all — knows for sure who will start opposite Murphy during the Week 1 showdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Well, if June and July dealings are a reasonable indicator, the other free-agent addition, Joejuan Williams, can be considered a dark horse to earn the other starting gig.

Dark Horse Defender Could Win Vikings CB Job
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Second-year corners Andrew Booth and Akayleb Evans will undoubtedly have something to say about it, but for now, Williams seems to be in a good position for the CB role.

At Vikings minicamp in June, Williams experienced some defensive run with first-teamers, and that tendency has carried over to training camp, which began this week in Eagan.

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The Athletic’s Alec Lewis tweeted about the new Viking Wednesday, “Another note from Vikings training camp practice: Looked like CB Joejuan Williams, the former New England Patriot who was drafted in the second round, got lots of snaps with the 1s. Williams is listed at 6-3, 212. He’s massive.”

A 2nd-Round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, Williams never quite took off with the New England Patriots, hence the lack of priority in extending him beyond a rookie deal. Williams lasted four seasons on Bill Belichick’s team but missed all of 2022 on injured reserve.

Vikings Recent Signing
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Since 2019, he’s played in 36 games while starting one, tabulating 505 defensive snaps and experiencing action on 337 special teams plays. Because of the 2022 injury, he was basically a forgotten man as a Patriot and evidently not a priority to sign by, well, anybody — until the Vikings snatched him in April.

ESPN’s Kevin Seifert also tweeted about Williams at camp, “Brian Flores said he expected the Vikings’ CB position to be very competitive. So it was notable that UFA Joejuan Williams worked today with the ones alongside Akayleb Evans and Byron Murphy Jr. in the nickel. Wouldn’t be shocked to see Andrew Booth Jr. and Mekhi Blackmon mix in.”

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Of course, these pro-Williams theories have sprung after just one day of camp, but it’s a safe assumption that the 25-year-old is trending toward a 53-man roster spot — and possibly a starter’s job if the momentum continues. When Williams was signed, folks didn’t know if he was a ‘camp body’ or a potential starter. He’s assuredly more than the former.

Here’s Williams’ Pro Football Focus resume to date:

  • 2019 = 67.8
  • 2020 = 55.5
  • 2021 = 66.6
  • 2022 = Injured

Most Vikings fans and pundits classify cornerback as the team’s weakest position, so any positivity regarding Wiliams — or Booth, Evans, or Blackmon — is significant.

The Vikings kick off the preseason in two weeks at Seattle.

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 OverTheCap.com.