Is Camryn Bynum Ready to Take Next Step?

Vikings Safety Jokes
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

One man on the Vikings’ defense had himself a breakout season in 2023, but is Camryn Bynum ready to take the next step? If he can build on his 2023 season, there is potential for him to become one of the best players in the league at the safety position.

Is Camryn Bynum Ready to Take Next Step?

A fourth-round pick in 2021, Bynum was a college cornerback who was immediately converted to safety. He showed promise in his rookie season, playing in 14 games, including three starts — deputizing for injuries. In Mike Zimmer’s defense, Bynum had a career-high season grade of 78.3 from Pro Football Focus. He managed 28 tackles, including a sack and a tackle for loss, plus an interception and three pass deflections in a promising rookie campaign.

Is Camryn Bynum
Peter van den Berg-USA TODAY Sports

In 2022, a new head coach in Kevin O’Connell, and a new defensive coordinator and play caller in Ed Donatell arrived. Despite the Vikings selecting safety Lewis Cine in the first round of the draft, it was Bynum who won the starter job next to veteran safety Harrison Smith. Cine would suffer a broken leg early in the season, leaving the path clear for Bynum to start every game.

Regular playing time was the positive, but Bynum had a difficult time in a defense that often struggled. Bynum’s overall grade from PFF dropped dramatically to 58.2, with a stat line on the season of 81 tackles, 2 interceptions, 6 pass deflections, and 2 fumble recoveries.

The Brian Flores Impact

Bynum’s third season in Minnesota saw the third different man in charge of the defense. Flores greatly impacted the Vikings defense in his first season as defensive coordinator. It was no more evident than in the emergence of Bynum, who remained a starter in a move that certainly worked. It was a breakout season for Bynum, with the Filipino proving he is a more than capable starter throughout a full season.

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.

He proved to be a tackling machine, with his 94 tackles a league-best among defensive backs. He also had two tackles for loss, a QB hit, three forced fumbles, and half a sack in his resume in 2023. In coverage, he had two interceptions and nine pass deflections. His overall grade from PFF was back to 73.2, the 22nd-best grade among safeties across the league. Bynum had been around the top 10 at the position for much of the season, but like the rest of the defense and the team in general, performances dropped off towards the end of the season.

The Next Step

The next step for Bynum is twofold: firstly, can he keep his highest level of performance consistent throughout the season? He had very good games against San Francisco and Philadelphia but also particularly bad ones against Cincinnati and Detroit at the end of the season. The defense was falling apart somewhat by that point with a couple of injuries and teams figuring them out, highlighting the lack of talent across the unit. The Vikings should add talent to their ranks this offseason, which will help the defense as a whole, but Bynum needs to be able to keep his level of play high regardless if he is to become a top safety.

The second part is a hypothetical. After 12 seasons, could the Vikings be about to move on from Smith? The Hitman has had a career in Minnesota that puts him in legendary status, and he should be a future Hall of Famer. However, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has shown he wants to make the roster younger while clearing out big cap hits from veterans.

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

With a $19 million cap hit this season and $22 million next season, keeping the 35-year-old on the books at that price makes no sense. Retirement has even been mooted as an option for the veteran. If Smith leaves Minnesota, they lose a great leader, and while Josh Metellus has leadership skills, it leaves a big void to be filled in terms of communication and football IQ in the Vikings’ secondary. The Vikings also lose an excellent pass rusher from the secondary, something we’ve not seen much of from Bynum. Can he add that to his arsenal?

It promises to be a pivotal season for Bynum. Has he reached his ceiling, or is there more to come as a player and a leader? Throw in that he’s in the final year of his rookie contract, and Bynum has everything to play for.