This Free Agent for Vikings Would Make Brian Flores Happy

Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

When the Minnesota Vikings fired defensive coordinator Ed Donatell after only one season with the organization, they made a large step towards fixing the defense after years of struggle. The next step was appointing former Dolphins’ head coach Brian Flores as his successor. A highly regarded defensive coach in league circles was expected to improve the unit quickly.

This Free Agent for Vikings Would Make Brian Flores Happy

Make Brian Flores
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Indeed, Flores changed everything from a defense that barely blitzed to a group that blitzes on every other play. That aggression earned him praise from players in training camp, and it translated into the regular season after three slow games, elevating the disastrous bunch from embarrassing ranks in last season’s metrics to average. A big improvement.

Although his defense was apparently figured out at the end of the season, his side of the ball exceeded expectations throughout the whole season and kept the campaign alive when the offense imploded following Kirk Cousins’ injury and Joshua Dobbs landing back on earth after his trip to space.

When he was hired, folks expected Flores to get some head coaching interest in the 2024 offseason, but he is still without an interview request, and it would be a surprise at this point if he left the organization. Another year with him calling the shots on the defense could boost the group to new levels. But he needs some help. A couple of personnel upgrades would help.

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Vikings fans want a new defensive tackle, someone who can get after the quarterback from the interior. Also on the wishlist is a solid edge-rushing duo, but that might be a hard task for GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah as Danielle Hunter and D.J. Wonnum enter free agency in March, barring a contract extension.

As the safety position is set and Ivan Pace can handle the linebacker duties in Flores’ system, there is one more spot to improve: cornerback. Byron Murphy was signed last year, and he has been fine. Unproven first and second-year players Akayleb Evans, Andrew Booth, and Mekhi Blackmon have expectedly been up and down. Signing a veteran could fix that.

But Adofo-Mensah shouldn’t just get after a random free agent. He should go after the best, someone who can hold his own when Flores sends everyone to blitz, leaving him on an island even against elite receivers.

This Free Agent Would Make Brian Flores Happy
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That guy is L’Jarius Sneed, a teammate of Patrick Mahomes and Kansas City’s top cornerback.

Sneed turns 27 next week, and he is in his fourth season. A Super Bowl champion, he just missed out on the All-Pro teams, showing how good a player he is. Kansas City might not retain him as they have already drafted Trent McDuffie in 2022, who has become one of the league’s best in his own right.

Once he hits free agency, Sneed will be the top available CB. Pro Football Focus ranks him as the 10th-best free agent in the upcoming period, giving a glowing recommendation:

Sneed has been a fixture out wide in 2023 after lining up primarily in the slot over his first three seasons, and he’s held up quite well in several tough matchups. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo asks a lot of his cornerbacks, and Sneed is sticky in coverage, getting into receivers’ hip pockets and becoming very hard to shake with lateral movement or in the air at the catch point.

Sneed could stand to cut down on penalties, but his aggressive nature would be welcome on many teams, and his inside-outside versatility is a nice benefit, as well.

Aggressive is a word Flores likes to hear. The defensive coordinator tried to help his cornerbacks, but his defense would likely be even more unpredictable if he had one more good player at the critical position.

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Sneed allowed precisely half of his 90 targets to be caught for 435 yards, but he didn’t allow a score in 2023, logging two interceptions for a ridiculous passer rating of 54.6 when targeted.

The Vikings have some cap space available, but it all depends on the future of Kirk Cousins and Danielle Hunter. If the two are re-signed, there might not be the cap space to go after expensive players, at least not without some (possible) salary cap magic, but if one of them is let go, well, there is some wiggle room.

PFF predicts his contract to be a three-year deal for $17.5 million per season. If there was room to hand Marcus Davenport $13 million, there should be a way to give him slightly more, a player who is more reliable and, quite frankly, better.

Flores can squeeze a lot out of his talent, but it would be fun to watch what he can do if the Vikings find a way to add two or three difference-makers. And Sneed is one of those.

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