After clinching a losing season for the second straight year, the Minnesota Vikings may very well be in for quite a chaotic offseason in the coming months.
Although they were in contention for a wild-card spot in the NFC for much of the season, the Vikings fell short of making the playoffs for the second consecutive campaign. From injuries on offense to the multitude of underachievers on the defensive side of the ball, the Vikings simply did not have much to go their way over the course of the season, which then led to the firing of longtime head coach Mike Zimmer.
Although it has not yet been made official, Los Angeles Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell is set to fill the Vikings’ head coaching vacancy. Overall, O’Connell may not see much turnaround on offense for his expected first season in Minnesota, as the team’s top offensive threats in running back Dalvin Cook and wide receiver Adam Thielen will be under contract for the 2022 season. However, this may not be the case on defense.
The Vikings face plenty of early uncertainty as to the 11 who will start for them on defense come Week 1 of the 2022 campaign. They are just coming off a season where they allowed 25.1 points per game and also faced dire struggles in securing crucial red zone stops on a game-by-game basis.
The Vikings are very well set to address multiple positions on defense in the upcoming offseason, and they certainly must zone in on shoring up this certain unit.
Biggest need the Vikings must address in the offseason
For the Vikings to have a chance to make a playoff run in the 2022 season, they must focus on revamping their cornerback unit.
It was only a few years ago that the Vikings relied on a one-two punch of Trae Waynes and Xavier Rhodes to lead the team’s cornerback unit. For one, they each logged at least 90 percent of snaps played on defense in the Vikings’ 2017 campaign, when they ranked first in points per game allowed with a 15.8 average.
Fast-forward four years later, and the Vikings bolstered one of the least efficient secondary units in all the NFL. They ranked 28th in passing yards allowed per game over the 2021 regular season with a 252.9 average.
The Vikings had plenty of turnaround at the cornerback position over the past campaign. Veteran defensive back Patrick Peterson wound up being the only cornerback on the team who logged at least 70 percent of snaps played, as he went on to allow a 78.7 passer rating in coverage over 13 games played.
Bashaud Breeland was another veteran cornerback that Vikings defensive coordinators Andre Patterson and Adam Zimmer relied upon over the season. However, Breeland sure had a campaign to forget, as he allowed seven passing touchdowns while in coverage as the nearest defender and was cut in December after getting into a verbal altercation with players and coaches during a practice session.
Mackenzie Alexander and second-year talent Cameron Dantzler joined Peterson as the only cornerbacks to feature in at least 50 percent of snaps on defense this past season. Alexander often had his share of struggles, as he allowed a team-high 119.2 passer rating while in coverage. On the other hand, Dantzler did show some promise over the season, especially as he defended on 323 routes and allowed a 54.7 completion percentage in coverage.
As it stands, Dantzler and Kris Boyd are set to be the only go-to cornerbacks on the roster from last season who will return for the 2022 campaign. Both Peterson and Alexander will become unrestricted free agents in March.
The Vikings sure will have plenty of options across the board to retool their cornerback depth. The upcoming free agency class is set to feature a multitude of available, veteran cornerbacks, from Stephon Gilmore to Joe Haden. Still, the Vikings are currently set to be around $14 million-plus over the cap, and the front office may opt to free up cap space in order to overhaul other positions.
On the other hand, the 2022 NFL Draft will have several versatile, game-changing defensive backs who sure have what it takes to provide a spark to the Vikings secondary. Even if the Vikings elect to shore up another position with their No. 12 overall pick in the draft, a talent like former Washington cornerback Kyler Gordon could bolster their depth at the position due to his speed and ability to also take on matchups in the slot.
It may very well be a franchise-altering offseason for the Vikings where they could end up seeing multiple new faces in their secondary unit.