Who Should the Vikings Add at CB?
The Minnesota Vikings had a subpar 2020 season for their standards. After making the playoffs in two of the prior three seasons, the Vikings took a giant step back in 2020, finishing the season 7-9 and missing out on the playoffs.
The Vikings up and down season was reflective of both the offense’s successes and the defense’s failures. Their offense in 2020 was statistically one of their best ever. Kirk Cousins threw for 35 touchdowns, which was second most in franchise history, while rookie wideout Justin Jefferson (1,379 yards) broke Anquan Boldin’s NFL rookie receiving yards record of 1,377. The offence as a whole scored 55 touchdowns which was second only behind the 1998 Vikings mark of 58.
While the offence was historically good in 2020 the defence was historically bad. The Vikings bend don’t break defence allowed 393.3 yards per game and 7.65 yards per pass attempt. Those figures were 27th and 29th in the entire league last season and were consistent problems for the Vikings defence all year.
After their 52-33 Christmas day loss to the New Orleans Saints, Zimmer addressed the media and shared his blunt assessment of the Vikings defence.
“This is a bad defense. Worst one I’ve ever had.”
And he was right. The 2020 Vikings defence was statistically the worst defence Zimmer has had during his time not only in Minnesota, but in the NFL. Injuries to key players Anthony Barr and Danielle Hunter were certainly to blame — but what was most concerning for the Vikings in 2020 was the inconsistent play of their secondary.
Rookie corners Cameron Dantzler and Jeff Gladney had to step in and start the majority of the season after the Vikings cornerback room underwent a drastic change prior to the season. The Vikings moved on from 2019 starters Xavier Rhoades, Trae Waynes, and Mackensie Alexander before the season and underwent a youth movement at the position. That decision backfired for
Zimmer as the depth of the Vikings secondary was stretched beyond its limits. GM Rick Spielman must do a better job addressing the issue this free agency period in order to add depth to the position group while bringing in veteran leadership to help the young players out. Luckily for them, there are multiple veteran options they can bring in at a team friendly cost.
Richard Sherman (San Francisco 49ers)
Adding Richard Sherman would be the best possible outcome for the Vikings this off-season. Sherman’s resume in the NFL speaks for itself and he will certainly be a hot commodity on the free agent market. He has publicly come out and stated multiple times that he is unlikely to return to the 49ers during free agency with the two sides unable to to reach an extension.
Sherman should be a top priority for the VIkings but it is unlikely he would consider playing for Minnesota in 2021.
1. William Jackson III (Cincinnati Bengals)
William Jackson III is an interesting free agent option for the Vikings. The former first-round pick in 2016 has carved out a solid career for the Bengals thus far and is looking to get paid in free agency. If the Vikings can get together the money to give Jackson a handsome contract offer it would be a perfect outcome for both sides. Jackson III would come at a steeper price than some of the other corners on the open market and would be a risk worth taking for the Vikings.
Jackson’s unique combination of height (6.0), size (196lb) and speed (4.37) allows him to match up well with outside receivers. He allowed an opposing quarterback rating of just 88.2 this past season when he was targeted and recorded 11 pass breakups and one interception.
Jackson’s career in Cincinnati has been on a downwards trajectory ever since his sophomore season. In 2017, he allowed a passer rating of just 36.1 when targeted and was unlucky not to make the Pro-Bowl. He finished the season with a Pro Football Focus grade of 90.2 which was the sixth best of any cornerback since 2011. The five players ahead of him over the last ten years have all been All-Pro’s.
Jackson bounced back in 2020 and had a good year but has never quite made the leap in superstardom that he was projected to make after his sophomore year. He played his final season with the Bengals on his fifth-year option and will be searching for a contract around the $12 million per year range in free agency. Joining the Vikings on a two year, $23 million deal is not out of the question and would allow Jackson to play under an experienced defensive minded coach and a defence that when healthy has shown the capacity to be one of the best in the entire league.
2. Brian Poole (New York Jets)
Brian Poole has developed into a great nickel cornerback in the NFL. Poole has scrapped and earned everything he has achieved thus far after going undrafted in 2016. He possesses a rare toughness that cannot be taught and would be a valuable addition to the Vikings nickel defence in both the passing and running game.
Poole’s size at 5-10, 209 lbs allows him to match up well against slot receivers. He uses his lateral quickness and agility to shut off routes and get his hands on the football to deflect passes. He finished last season with two interceptions, 7 pass breakups and 34 solo tackles in just 9 games.
Poole graded as the 11th best cornerback in the NFL last year according to Pro Football Focus and was just consistent in his 2019 season as well. An injury to his shoulder cut his 2020 campaign short when he was putting together what could have been a Pro-Bowl season. Poole has shown his potential to be a serviceable nickelback in the NFL when he has been able to stay healthy. If the Vikings could attract Poole to Minnesota it would be a great addition for a team who struggled in all areas of pass defence a season ago. Shoring up the middle of the field would be the first step towards getting the Vikings back to the top of the NFC North.
3. Xavier Rhodes (Indianapolis Colts)
A Xavier Rhodes reunion in Minnesota would be a feel-good story this off-season. The 6 foot 2, 210lb corner revitalised his career in Indianapolis after a poor 2019 season and regained the form that made him a three-time pro-bowler with the Vikings. He started in all 16 games for the Colts and recorded 2 interceptions and 40 solo tackles while being targeted by 75 times. From those 75 targets, opposing quarterbacks completed 50% of the passes thrown in his direction, down from 80% in 2019 according to Pro Football Focus.
Rhoades has familiarity with Zimmer’s defensive scheme and would fit in seamlessly with the Vikings defense. His time spent last season playing in a heavy-base zone scheme will benefit him if he returns to Minnesota and would provide Zimmer with a corner who can play off-ball coverage down the field. The Vikings corners struggled to make plays on the football and adding a player with Rhoades’ ball skills would greatly add to the playmaking ability of the Vikings secondary. Rhoades finished last season with an overall grade of 76.3 according to Pro Football Focus. His 2020 grade was actually 1.6 points better than his 2017 overall grade which was Rhoades’ only year as an All-Pro. If the Vikings can get this version of Rhoades it would be a significant benefit to a defense that struggled to get consistency from their corners all of last year.