Duke Shelley Likely to Break Out — Again — with New Team

Former Viking to Return
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Duke Shelley has been cut loose by three teams in less than a year.

And two of those teams said goodbye after Shelley produced the fourth-best Pro Football Focus grade in the sport among cornerbacks last year.

Duke Shelley Likely to Break Out — Again — with New Team

For some reason, the 27-year-old wasn’t desired by the Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings, and Las Vegas Raiders. But now the veteran corner will get another chance and likely make the most of it with the Los Angeles Rams.

Shelley Likely
Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports.

The Rams main social media account tweeted the news on Friday:

The good news for Shelley? The man will receive playing time, which is all he needed in Minnesota to emphatically prove a point. Los Angeles, on paper, is undergoing a transformational year, rostering one of the youngest teams in the NFL, particularly on defense.

The Vikings 1 Standout
Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports.

The Rams are the second-youngest team in the league, so Shelley’s expertise will be damn near mandatory. Here’s where he’ll live on Sean McVay’s depth chart:

CB1: Ahkello Witherspoon
CB2: Derion Kendrick
CB3: Cobie Durant
CB4: Duke Shelley
CB5: Tre Tomlinson
CB6: Shaun Jolly

This relationship is precisely what Shelley needed a chance and playing time. He’ll receive both in Los Angeles, immediately conjoined to the active roster and skipping the practice squad altogether.

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports.

The veteran defender took over starter’s duties in Minnesota after injuries to Cameron Dantzler, Akayleb Evans, and Andrew Booth in 2022, and before too long, his emergence felt like a classic example of addition by subtraction. The man flourished inside Ed Donatell’s 2022 defense — to the tune of an 82.9 PFF grade.

The Vikings said sayonara this offseason to CBs Shelley, Patrick Peterson, Chandon Sullivan, Kris Boyd, and the aforementioned Dantzler while onboarding veteran free agents Byron Murphy and Joejuan Williams, plus rookie Mekhi Blackmon from the 2023 NFL Draft. Why Minnesota wouldn’t grant Shelley a sequel in 2023 will remain a mystery.

Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports.

The Rams aren’t forecasted to do much in 2023, perceived as paying the piper for their 2021 Super Bowl run that included current Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell. That isn’t necessarily good news for Shelley, joining an underwhelming roster predicted to finish with six wins or so. Yet, he’ll get the defensive snaps and opportunity to prove 2022 wasn’t an accident.

Los Angeles ranked 21st last year per EPA/Play.

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.