What Role Will the New Guy Play for the Vikings?

Joejuan Williams, a former defensive back for the Vanderbilt Commodores, prepares for the NFL combine at the EXOS training facility in Phoenix, Ariz., on Monday, February 18, 2019. Joejuan Williams

The Minnesota Vikings strengthened their cornerback room Monday, 26 days after signing their last free agent, linebacker Troy Reeder from the Los Angeles Chargers.

Joejuan Williams joined the club, formerly of the New England Patriots and a 2nd-Round draft pick in 2019. He’s played 505 defensive snaps in four seasons — not exactly a lot — and missed all of 2022 because of a shoulder injury. Nevertheless, this is Williams’ passer-rating-against since 2019:

  • 2019 = 56.8
  • 2020 = 79.7
  • 2021 = 96.8
  • 2022 = Injured

What Role Will the New Guy Play for the Vikings?

And according to Pro Football Focus:

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

So, what role will he play with the Vikings in 2023? These are the three options.

1. The Case for Starter

Will the New Guy
Joejuan Williams, a former defensive back for the Vanderbilt Commodores, poses for a portrait during a break from the gym in his apartment in Phoenix, Ariz., on Monday, February 18, 2019. Williams was staying in Phoenix as he trained for the upcoming NFL combine. © Thomas Hawthorne/USA Today Network.

The Vikings currently employ five cornerbacks aside from Williams: Byron Murphy, Andrew Booth, Akayleb Evans, Tay Gowan, and Kalon Barnes. Murphy is the only guaranteed starter, with Booth and Evans hoping to win starting gigs in training camp and preseason.

If Williams wants it and has the skillset to win a starting job, this is the team to effectuate the plan. Before and after the Williams signing, Minnesota is slender at cornerback depth. It would not be weird one iota for the Vanderbilt alumnus to win a camp battle over Booth or Evans, although it would be disappointing if Booth couldn’t win a starting job based on his 2022 draft stock.

But Williams is a 2nd-Round pick, too. Don’t forget that. He’s not a bum tunneling toward an obvious practice squad assignment. Plus, the guy is huge — 6’3″ and 210 pounds.

2. The Case for Depth CB

Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports.

Probably the most likely outcome, Williams could nestle behind Murphy and the eventual starter, whether that’s outlasting Booth, Evans, or an early-round rookie from the 2023 NFL Draft. The Vikings are tentatively expected to get richer at CB in 10 days and could select a player like Deonte Banks (Maryland), Kelee Ringo (Georgia), or Cam Smith (South Carolina) on the first night of the draft.

Fulfilling the CB-in-early-rounds theory would send Williams to CB4 or CB5 territory, depending on how productive Gowan is this summer.

With the Patriots, Williams was a depth cornerback in the CB4 range. That’s his NFL path so far; it may continue with the Vikings.

3. The Case for a Summer Cut

Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports.

Of course, this move by general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah could amount to zilch, especially if Booth, Evans, Gowan, and the hypothetical rookie corner look wonderful at training camp this summer.

For now, all Williams offers as a free-agent signing is hope for a career reclamation. The 2nd-Rounder has started one game in four years, not exactly a fairy tale script for a high-round draft pick.

If all the “other guys” play better in the coming months, Williams could be one of several NFL additions from free agency that didn’t amount to much.

On the whole, he’ll likely become a depth corner on the Vikings 2023 depth chart.

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,’ and The Doors (the band).

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