It’ll Be Expensive if the Vikings Want Top Free Agent CB

Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah at the 2023 NFL Combine in Indianapolis, IN. The Vikings finished 13-4 in the first year under Adofo-Mensah's general management.

The Minnesota Vikings enter their 2023 offseason with many needs, especially on defense. Defensive coordinator Brian Flores inherits a subpar defensive unit and needs help at multiple spots. Defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson is set to enter free agency, and the Vikings don’t have a competent replacement on the roster.

However, the absence of trustworthy cornerbacks is much more of a problem. Patrick Peterson, Duke Shelley, and Chandon Sullivan all played on one-year deals and will be free agents next week, barring contract extensions from the Vikings. Current starters are Andrew Booth Jr., Cameron Dantzler, and Akayleb Evans, a unit that doesn’t point toward an improved defense.

It’ll Be Expensive if the Vikings Want Top Free Agent CB

There has to be a plan to fix the defensive backfield, likely with a combination of draft prospects, homegrown talent, and free agents. Both Booth Jr. and Evans can potentially become starters in the league, but it’s unwise to expect it to happen in 2023. One way to improve the defense could be to sign the top cornerback on the market, to at least have one guy on the team who can play on an island.

Vikings Want Top
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Most observers view Jamel Dean, the former Tampa Bay Buccaneer, as the number one player available at the position. That would help the other defenders with their assignments, as they could help each other without shifting help toward the best coverage player. The value of having a top cornerback can’t be overstated.

Of course, signing a top free agent costs a lot of money. Multiple sources believe that Dean will break the bank. He started 38 games in four seasons in Tampa Bay. Tom Brady’s old team is entering a rebuilding period after the future Hall of Famer retired.

Dean’s playing style can be called physical. He is excellent at defending big-body wideouts. Only 51.9% of targets in his direction were caught in the last couple of seasons. Ari Meirov from The 33rd Team expects his market to be at least $14 million annually.

The PFF Prediction for
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That is a lot of money for a team that is still roughly $14 million over the cap despite releasing veteran linebacker Eric Kendricks after seven seasons with the organization.

In the Pro Football Focus free agent rankings, Dean ranks fifth overall and is the top cornerback. They predict his next contract to be a four-year deal for $17 million per season. He was PFF’s tenth-highest-graded cornerback in 2022 after ranking 20th and 12th in the two previous seasons. That consistency would help the Vikings.

NFL insider Tom Pelissero offers more praise for the defender with another alarming salary projection.

Don’t be surprised if Dean paces the CB market, with a contract that could start in the range of $16 million a year. A third-round pick by the Buccaneers in 2019, Dean quietly has emerged as one of the NFL’s better young cornerbacks, with seven interceptions and 41 passes defensed in 57 career games (38 starts). Per PFF, Dean allowed a 50 percent completion rate (fourth among CBs with at least 50 targets) and 6.1 yards per target (T-10th) in primary coverage last season, with a forced incompletion rate of 16.2 percent (T-12th).

Spotrac takes into account age and production, and compares it to the contracts of similar players to form a market value. Dean’s is at $16.5 million per season.

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Four highly-respected sources come to the conclusion that Dean will cost between $14 million and $17 million per season. The Vikings are currently over the cap but could free up a lot of room by releasing veterans like Adam Thielen, Za’Darius Smith, and Dalvin Cook, in addition to a potential contract extension of QB Kirk Cousins.

The structure of Dean’s deal could also be flexible. The cap hit could be spread out into future years. However, it would still be an expensive signing. He is arguably the most significant difference maker the Vikings could add to the team when free agency begins on March 13.

Many draft pundits expect the Vikings to select a cornerback in the first round of the draft, Deonte Banks, the cornerback from Maryland, is a name to watch.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt