The Minnesota Vikings are among the flagship NFL teams that are most associated with gritty defense. There have been down years; there are always down years. For the most part, though, they’ve tended to lean on stingy defense as their identity.
Look across any draft or free-agency period, and you’ll see them investing heavily on that side of the ball. Whether it was their interest in cornerback Morris Claiborne ahead of the 2012 NFL draft, even though they were already set at that position or the money they’ve spent shoring up the defense in recent free-agency periods, they always seem to bring their existence back to the less glamorous end of the ball.
We should expect nothing different from them in the 2020 offseason. They finished fifth in points allowed per game during the 2019 regular season, but they started to show cracks as the year went on. They have needs on the defensive line and in the secondary, both at safety and at cornerback.
The latter figures to be their most pressing hole. They invested a bunch of money in Xavier Rhodes a few years back, but he’s regressed over the past three seasons. And while Mackensie Alexander has proven to be a great addition to the Vikings secondary for the last two years, he’s entering free agency himself and could end up securing a contract too rich for Minnesota’s wallet.
Most are looking for the Vikings to add more cornerback talent in the draft. Florida’s CJ Henderson is a name that keeps propping up. Scouts love him for both his athleticism and instincts, and Minnesota is going to need a playmaker in the secondary when they could, feasibly, enter the 2020 season without Alexander or Rhodes.
Targeting more corners in free agency is a possibility as well. It all depends on how much the Vikings are willing to spend. Odds are they won’t ante up unless they get rid of Rhodes’ $12.9 million cap hit, so they could be left to surf the bargain bin.
Two names that stand out for them there: Kendall Fuller of the Kansas City Chiefs and Byron Jones of the Dallas Cowboys. Neither of them comes close to matching Rhodes’ talent level at his peak, but they’re solid playmakers who can break up passes and complete the occasional big-time interception without leaving the safeties out to dry should they mess up. The Vikings should be looking at them both.