Emerging Vikings Defender Deserves a Contract Extension

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The Minnesota Vikings have handed out a well-deserved contract extension in the offseason, although they failed to extend the deals of star players Kirk Cousins and Danielle Hunter. Three-time Pro Bowler Justin Jefferson just recently signed his first veteran contract, which will pay him the most money of all non-QBs in NFL history on a per-season basis.

Emerging Vikings Defender Deserves a Contract Extension

On the defensive side of the ball, general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah smartly committed to Josh Metellus prior to his fabulous 2023 season under the tutelage of defensive coordinator Brian Flores. While many raised their eyebrows and wondered why the Vikings would give a mere special teamer and backup a raise, he emerged as an essential part of the defensive plan.

Emerging Vikings Defender Deserves a Contract Extension
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A similar approach should be taken with fellow safety Camryn Bynum. Like Metellus last year, Bynum is entering the final year of his rookie contract and is scheduled to hit free agency after the season. Minnesota’s front office now has two options: They could either wait and see how he develops in 2024 before offering an extension, but the competition in free agency could raise the price, or the team could offer him the deal now.

The advantage of the latter option is obvious. For Bynum, it would secure guaranteed money that he would get even if his play declines to 2022 levels, a season in which he didn’t look like a starter in Ed Donatell’s defensive scheme. The Vikings, meanwhile, would secure his play and lock in his salary, which would remain even if he took another step toward stardom.

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Adofo-Mensah would make a bet, as neither his level of play nor his injury-free history is guaranteed to remain sufficient. Still, it is a reasonable bet to make.

Bynum joined the Vikings as a fourth-round selection in 2021. He played cornerback in college at the University of California, but the Vikings announced him as a safety during the draft and had no intentions of keeping him at his old spot.

In his rookie season, the team employed Harrison Smith and bridge starter Xavier Woods. Bynum was their backup, but as Smith tested positive for COVID-19 on gameday versus the Baltimore Ravens, it was Bynum who received the chance to start in Mike Zimmer’s defense. In the two contests sans Smith, he did a phenomenal job and showcased enormous potential.

Lewis Cine Pitched a Shutout vs. Lions. And Not in a Good Way.
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Once Zimmer was removed from his job and Donatell was hired, the Vikings selected Lewis Cine in the draft instead of giving Bynum the keys to the safety position. Woods left in free agency, and to the surprise of many, the sophomore stayed ahead of first-rounder Cine and started all 18 contests in 2022. He also recorded the outstanding feat of not missing a single snap all year. The problem, however, was that Bynum didn’t look like the guy he was in his starts as a rookie and badly struggled in Donatell’s defense.

Donatell was fired, and Flores arrived. With Cine back in practice after recovering from his leg fracture, most folks expected Cine once again to be the new guy to start next to Smith, especially after Bynum’s disappointing 2022 campaign. That belief turned out to be wrong again. Bynum kept his job and played remarkably well in his third season in the league.

His 137 combined tackles led all defensive backs in 2023, and he added half a sack, two interceptions, and three forced fumbles to the stat sheet. His play against the run improved drastically, and he excelled as the primary deep safety while Smith and Metellus handled the duties in the box. For his signature performance against the 49ers, Bynum was awarded the NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors.

The highest-paid safeties in the league are Antoine Winfield Jr., with his enormous salary of roughly $21 million per season, followed by Derwin James ($19 million) and Minkah Fitzpatrick (just over $18 million).

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Those guys deserve that high-level compensation, as they are undoubtedly among the best in the business. Titans safety Amani Hooker ranks 12th with an annual salary of $10 million, which could be a nice point of reference for the Vikings. Bynum doesn’t have the extensive track record to join the top group, but his play and his development into one of the leaders of the defense should be rewarded with a significant raise.

PFF ranked the defender 22nd of 95 eligible safeties, and it should be noted that in the final four games of the season, when Minnesota’s defense was falling apart, his numbers dipped with the entire team. Outside of that horrendous stretch, he would’ve challenged the top ten.

Bynum will turn 26 in July, and the Vikings should bank on his potential. In 2023, he slowly became one of the faces of the defensive unit, and the team should ensure his continued employment.

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 prefers Classic rock over other genres. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt