When the Minnesota Vikings agreed to terms with Bashaud Breeland on Friday, it was a solid move to add depth to their roster. Breeland has spent seven seasons in the NFL, and the 29-year-old veteran has established himself as a solid player throughout his stops in Kansas City, Green Bay, and Washington.
After adding Patrick Peterson and Mackensie Alexander in a free-agency spending spree, it’s fair to wonder where Breeland fits in. The Vikings have promising young corners in Cameron Dantzler, Harrison Hand, and Kris Boyd, but Breeland will do more than compete for a spot on the roster.
Upon his arrival, Breeland will become Minnesota’s top cover corner. Last season, Breeland ranked 24th among qualifying cornerbacks in PFF’s coverage grades, and his 72.9 rating is the highest grade on the Vikings roster.
How does that number stack up with the rest of the team? Dantzler used a late-season surge to finish with a 69.8 coverage grade, and Alexander finished at 67.2. With Peterson (53.1) and Boyd (50.3) recording coverage grades in the 50s, Breeland is a big upgrade.
While his coverage numbers don’t scream “shutdown corner,” they could get better with a stronger supporting cast. Breeland played with Tyrann Mathieu during his time in Kansas City and played opposite rookie L’Jarius Snead and alongside safeties Daniel Sorensen and Juan Thornhill.
Breeland excels in coverage, but his tackling is a work in progress. In 11 games last season, Breeland ranked 118th out of 136 qualifying corners with a 36.7 tackling grade. More specifically, Breeland had issues making the tackles he should make, posting a 22 percent missed tackle rate that was 10th among qualifying cornerbacks.
In this aspect, Breeland profiles like Jeff Gladney, who led qualifying cornerbacks with 17 missed tackles last season but also recorded 70 total tackles compared to Breeland’s 38. However, with Breeland’s ability in coverage, he has fewer opportunities to make plays which could account for some of his struggles.
But Breeland is not a replacement for Gladney. While Gladney played half of his snaps in the slot last season, Breeland played 89 percent of his snaps on the outside. This suggests that Breeland is insurance in case Peterson or Dantzler don’t live up to expectations.
With both cornerbacks, there is reason to believe they could falter next year. Peterson’s performance regressed in the final two seasons with the Arizona Cardinals, while Dantzler didn’t come on until the final seven weeks of the season. Dantzler also had three separate injuries that forced him to miss five games.
There’s also a chance that the Vikings could use Peterson, Dantzler, and Breeland on the field at the same time. Dantzler is the most likely to be locked into an outside role as he played 89 percent of his snaps on the boundary last season. While Peterson played on the outside in Arizona, he also played nine percent of his snaps in the slot, making a move to the slot possible.
With rumors that Peterson has lost a step, the Vikings could decide to try Peterson in the slot. If that’s functional, Alexander, Boyd, and Hand could become quality depth pieces, and the Vikings would avoid having to play guys like Chris Jones.
This avoids the situation the Vikings were in a year ago when they stuck with Mike Hughes and Holton Hill instead of adding a veteran to round things out. With Breeland in the fold, the Vikings have a deep cornerback group that could take a big step forward in 2021.