On paper the secondary is less of a concern
Going into the offseason the secondary was the position group in question for the Minnesota Vikings. Following the 2021 season, Xavier Woods departed for the Carolina Panthers, Mackenzie Alexander didn’t re-sign and as for Bashaud Breeland, he was done before the season ended. The Vikings finished 28th against the pass and heading into the offseason had arguably the thinnest secondary group. Now, through free agency and the draft the group looks pretty stable for now and the future.
Let’s take a look.
The return of Pat P and the Signing of a former Green Bay Packer
The biggest re-signing of the Vikings 2022 off-season is Patrick Peterson. The 32-year-old cornerback expressed interest in returning to Minnesota with the deal officially getting done in March. Peterson wasn’t what he used to be in Arizona but when healthy was the best cornerback on the field. Even off the field, Peterson is a mentor and brings leadership to the position which is full of youth.
Chandon Sullivan was brought in from the Green Bay Packers in March. Sullivan appeared in 17 games for (starting in 10 of them) collecting 31 tackles, 2 TFL’s, 4 passes defended and 3 interceptions last season. With Patrick Peterson and Cameron Dantzler likely starting on the outside Sullivan will play in the slot cornerback role. While not stellar, Sullivan had a better PFF grade than Mackensie Alexander at 55.0 to 40.2 in 2021.
The 3 additions to the secondary in the NFL Draft
Round 1, Pick 32: Lewis Cine (S): Georgia
People might be mad that the Vikings passed on Kyle Hamilton and traded with Detroit Lions resulting in Jameson Williams. But think of it this way, Minnesota isn’t getting Lewis Cine and Andrew Booth Jr. without trading back with the Detroit Lions. This could actually turn out to be an outstanding trade for the Vikings and Kwesi Adofo-Mensah.
Lewis Cine is an absolute great pick up for the Vikings at pick No. 32. Coming from the defending National Champs, Cine led the Georgia Bulldogs with 73 total tackles, 9 passes defended while being named MVP of the National Championship Game. The 6’2″, 199 pound safety plays with a nice combination of speed, play recognition and hard hitting. Cine has played in big moments and outside of Hamilton, was the second best safety in this draft class.
Additionally, Cine could be an eventual replacement for Harrison Smith. Smith who is 33 years old has cap hits of $15 million (2022 & 2023) and $18 millions (2024) meaning that moving on could be a financially great move.
Round 2, Pick 42: Andrew Booth Jr. (CB): Clemson
The Minnesota Vikings pick Clemson CB Andrew Booth Jr. at No. 42 overall.
334 snaps without giving up a catch on a 20+ yard throw 🐅 pic.twitter.com/gH65BHVBP6
— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) April 29, 2022
The Vikings got a steal with Andrew Booth Jr at pick No. 42. Booth was 16th on Jordan Reid’s Big Board, 23rd on PFF’s Big Board, 39th on Mel Kipers. In 11 games he led a strong Clemson Tigers defense in interceptions (3) and also has some great highlight interceptions during his collegiate career. There’s no rush to start Booth right away with Peterson, Dantzler, and Sullivan, but he will get his chance to shine.
One-handed, falling back … WOW.
Interception of the year candidate from Clemson’s Andrew Booth Jr. 😱 pic.twitter.com/VsftCLvYnd
— ESPN (@espn) October 4, 2020
Round 4, Pick 118 Akayleb Evans (CB): Missouri
In the fourth round, the Vikings traded up to draft Akayleb Evans out of Missouri. Evans played at Tulsa for four years before transferring to Columbia in 2021. At 6’0″, 197 lbs, Evans displays nice size for a cornerback and 9.57 RAS score. A developmental corner, Evans is a prospect that Kwesi Adofo-Mensah really liked in the draft process.
“Where you find great value in this draft is the players your scouts find later in the draft and kind of bring to your attention,’’ Adofo-Mensah said Saturday. “(Evans) was a guy I remember watching at night. I’d sometimes watch him in the dark, and you’re looking at his size and say, ‘He’s a big guy. Man, he moves well, he plays off.’ You see him doing things in our scheme that translate really well.’’
And the rest…
Harry the Hitman is still one of the most reliable safeties in the NFL. Despite being inactive week 1, Dantzler improved off a promising rookie season with a 73.8 PFF Grade. While only a small sample size, rookie Cam Bynum played well in 2021.
What was once a glaring need is now more manageable for the Vikings heading into the summer. While this doesn’t guarantee that the unit will be good it looks more promising than it did coming into the off season.