The 2023 Minnesota Vikings will be led by a new defensive coordinator, a man with no identity as of January 31st. The franchise has interviewed four men since parting ways with 2022 defensive bossman Ed Donatell — Sean Desai (Seattle Seahawks), Brian Flores (Pittsburgh Steelers), Ryan Nielsen (New Orleans Saints), and Mike Pettine (Vikings).
And while a decision on the next defensive coordinator is expected soon, that man will have a weird cornerback problem: the Vikings have five decent corners in the orbit of their roster, but none are slam-dunk candidates for 2023.
The Vikings Weird CB Problem
So, the adage kind of goes like this — if a team has no sure things at cornerback, well, it doesn’t really have any sense of security at the position.
Patrick Peterson is a free agent but wants to reunite with the 2023 Vikings. He said on the same All Things Covered show last week about staying in Minnesota, “I would love to be there in that purple and gold again and give it a run again just because I love the community there. I love the organization. I love the new regime that [was] brought into that building, the trainers, the strength and conditioning staff. It’s just amazing. I truly believe it felt like home for me. I felt like it was a place that I belonged. But we all know it’s a business.”
Peterson was marvelous in 2022, firing up an 80.7 Pro Football Focus grade. He’ll be 33 next season, and it is unclear if his 13th season will be as productive as his 12th. Can the Vikings really strut into September after re-signing the savvy veteran merely assuming he’ll play at a top-tier level? It’d be risky.
Duke Shelley, like Peterson, was another standout performer — on a defense that needed all the standout performers it could find. However, nobody at all knew who in the world he was before the middle of the 2022 season, so the Vikings brass might “have to” pretend his 2022 production was a mirage. He’s also a free agent and not guaranteed to re-sign in Minnesota.
Believe it or not, Peterson and Shelley, who can sign with any team on March 15th, are the Vikings surest bets at corner. Next, Andrew Booth is a promising prospect drafted by Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah in the 2nd Round of last year’s draft. His rookie campaign was marred by injury, though. He could turn out as a total draft bust, the best thing anyone’s ever seen, or right in the middle. The lesson? He’s a gamble entering his sophomore season.
Booth’s rookie teammate, Akayleb Evans, is in the same boat as Booth but with lower draft stock and promise. The Vikings found Evans in the 4th Round of the 2022 NFL Draft, and Evans rose to the occasion in a couple of games this season. Then, he was beset by back-to-back concussions, and that was a wrap on his season. You can apply all logic regarding Booth’s development to Evans. He could be great, a dud, or in between.
Finally, Cameron Dantzler will enter his fourth season next autumn and should be the safest commodity on the list. But he is arguably the flimsiest. He took an emphatic backseat down the stretch of the 2022 season because of injury and was a healthy scratch for the Vikings playoff loss to the Giants. He absolutely cannot be the Vikings “solution” at CB in September, nor do any Vikings fans reasonably expect it.
The best way to solve this conundrum is for Adofo-Mensah to sign a guaranteed-to-be-good cornerback in free agency or trade for a difference-maker. That alone would lessen the anxiety. A CB alpha would make the rest of the cornerback room seem decent, as none of the other five would be expected to be the go-to option.
Otherwise, Adofo-Mensah can draft another cornerback with high draft capital, plop into a summer battle with Booth, Evans, Dantzler — and maybe Peterson and Shelley — and “hope for the best.”
Overall, the Vikings have oodles of “guys” at cornerback, and that’s about it.
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,’ and The Doors (the band).
All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by OverTheCap.com.