Beloved Former Viking to Return for Playoffs with New Team

Shelley Likely
Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports

Few NFL experts predicted the Los Angeles Rams would reach the playoffs in 2023, but Sean McVay’s team will play football on Wildcard Weekend regardless.

Beloved Former Viking to Return for Playoffs with New Team

The Rams sewed up a playoff spot last weekend and will likely travel to Detroit, Dallas, or Philadelphia in 10 or 11 days to start the postseason. Detroit is the most likely option.

And Los Angeles will do so with a former Minnesota Viking defender poised to return from injured reserve — cornerback Duke Shelley.

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports.

KPRC2’s Aaron Wilson tweeted Wednesday, “Rams designate Duke Shelley for return,” opening a 21-day window for his comeback, with the playoffs a week and a half around the bend.

Shelley joined the Rams in September after the Las Vegas Raiders said sayonara to the 27-year-old around the roster-trimdown deadline. He’s played 11 games in Los Angeles, starting none, and seen action on 76 defensive plays and 190 special teams snaps.

Unfortunately for his sake, his 2023 campaign pales in comparison to last year — at least entering Week 18. To date this season, Shelley has registered a 42.5 Pro Football Focus grade, ranking near the bottom of the league among CBs and a far departure from an 81.5 score with the Vikings in 2022. In short, Shelley’s masterful performance as a Viking might’ve been a one-hit-wonder.

Former Viking to Return
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

The veteran defender took over starter’s duties in Minnesota after injuries to Cameron Dantzler, Akayleb Evans, and Andrew Booth in 2022, and before too long, his emergence felt like a classic example of addition by subtraction. The man flourished inside Ed Donatell’s 2022 defense.

The Vikings said goodbye last offseason to CBs Shelley, Patrick Peterson, Chandon Sullivan, Kris Boyd, and Dantzler while onboarding veteran free agents Byron Murphy and Joejuan Williams, plus rookie Mekhi Blackmon from the 2023 NFL Draft

Los Angeles Rams cornerback Duke Shelley (26) celebrates a fumble recovery against the Green Bay Packers during their football game Sunday, November 5, 2023, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. Wm. Glasheen USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin.

These are the Rams’ cornerbacks with the postseason around the bend:

  • Ahkello Witherspoon
  • Cobie Durant
  • Quentin Lake 
  • Tre Tomlinson
  • Derion Kendrick
  • Michael Ojemudia (PS)
  • Cameron McCutcheon (PS)

The Rams’ defense ranks 22nd per DVOA in 2023. Shelley will be a free agent in March and probably won’t fetch a big contract, considering his small sample in Los Angeles and injured reserve stint.

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports.

Shelley was the NFL’s fourth-best cornerback in 2022, according to Pro Football Focus, and became a fan-favorite among Viking fans within a matter of weeks after insertion into the starting lineup.


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,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

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

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