Vikings Await the Cornerback Cavalry

Coach Already a Hot
Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores takes over the team's defense at an introductory press conference on February 15th, 2023, in Eagan, Minnesota.

The cornerback room in Minnesota has experienced a mass exodus. Patrick Peterson, Cameron Dantzler, and Duke Shelley have found employment elsewhere, while Chandon Sullivan is still a free agent.

So far, Byron Murphy is the only man coming the other way. This must even out as the Vikings await the cornerback cavalry to arrive. Going into the season with the roster as-is would be unfathomable.

The Vikings may be hoping for a second-year jump from Andrew Booth and Alayleb Evans — both need to stay healthy first. It’s certainly possible as Booth was seen as a first-round talent last year. Injury problems persisted into his rookie season, and fans saw him drop to the Vikings in the second. There was less expectation on fourth-round pick Evans, but after winning favor with the fanbase through his social media presence, he impressed when he got his chance. Unfortunately, that chance was cut short by not one but two concussions.

Vikings Await the
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After the three names already mentioned, the Vikings have Tay Gowan and Kalon Barnes signed to the roster. Two young players picked up last season, who Minnesota may want a good look at this offseason to see how they develop. However, that’s not a list of names that inspire confidence to enter Week 1 of the new season. The Vikings must add depth to the roster.

Vikings Await the Cornerback Cavalry

Minnesota needs as many as three new cornerbacks. Maybe they can get away with two and one of Gowan and Barnes, but three new faces would be preferable. Three options to find these players are free agency, the draft, or a trade. The Vikings need a mix of someone who can at least compete to be a starter on the outside, a genuine slot cornerback, and some experience. Murphy is the most senior cornerback on the Vikings roster right now, having turned 25 in January.

Minnesota Vikings cornerback Byron Murphy spent four seasons with the Arizona Cardinals, a 2nd-Round draft pick. He was welcomed to the Vikings from free agency in March 2023.

A veteran presence to fill the leadership void left by Peterson would be a smart move. Marcus Peters would provide that while being a genuine option as a starter. After missing the entire 2021 season, Peters returned to form as the season went on before missing the end of the regular season with a calf strain. He did return for the playoffs, where the Bengals beat the Ravens. Recent injuries are a concern, and Peters is one of the more expensive options. However, this is a two times first-team All-Pro cornerback who only recently turned 30.

Bryce Callahan brings the veteran presence while filling the need at slot corner. He might not be as good as he was a couple of seasons ago, but Callahan would be a solid option at a cheap price, as would Troy Hill if Peters is out of the Vikings price range for an outside cornerback. Hill doesn’t have the same pedigree as Peters but would be a solid safety net while Booth, Evans, and a rookie develop.

There is still one guy available that could be a long-term solution: Rock Ya-Sin. He would be a good fit in defensive coordinator Brian Flores’ man-heavy scheme, with the former second-rounder boasting good size on the outside at 6-foot and 190 pounds. In my opinion, this would be the best move Minnesota can make.

The Draft

It wasn’t so long ago that literally everybody was fixated on the Vikings drafting a cornerback in the first round. The early mock drafts had names like Cam Smith, Devon Witherspoon, Deonte Banks, Joey Porter, and Clark Phillips making their way to Minnesota. The more recent mock drafts are fixated on wide receivers and quarterbacks.

Bloodline CB
Penn State Nittany Lions cornerback Joey Porter Jr. (9) questions a call during Saturday’s NCAA Division I football game against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium in Columbus on October 30, 2021. © Barbara J. Perenic/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK.

While Murphy has been an excellent signing and is a player who can do it all, he can play on the outside or in the slot and match up in man coverage. He is good against the run and can make plays on the ball. He can’t do it on his own. His signing didn’t signal the end of the Vikings need at cornerback.

At this point in the draft process, it’s all speculation, and the Vikings may well select a CB in the first round. If they don’t, and the position hasn’t been addressed in free agency or a trade, then Day 2 of the draft might be when the Vikings make a move for a cornerback — whether that’s getting into the second round with a trade or waiting to use their third-round selection. There will be talent left on the board that should at least be able to compete with Booth and Evans.

Something needs to happen. Flores might be a great coach, but he would need to work miracles if the Vikings don’t strengthen at the cornerback position.