With the addition of Patrick Peterson and the return of Mackensie Alexander, the Minnesota Vikings have used a free-agent spending spree to shore up their secondary — one of their most significant weaknesses last year. And with Cameron Dantzler, Harrison Hand, and Kris Boyd already on the roster, Minnesota’s depth chart appears to be set at cornerback. But that doesn’t mean they couldn’t use some help.
The Vikings have explored bringing in Bashaud Breeland. The 29-year-old spent the last two seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs but is currently a free agent. Breeland visited the Vikings last week, but with no deal imminent, there’s a chance they could stand pat with their current group of cornerbacks.
If they don’t sign Breeland, the Vikings risk repeating one of their biggest mistakes from a year ago. Last season, Minnesota believed they were set at cornerback despite losing their top three starters in free agency. With Holton Hill and Mike Hughes as starters, the Vikings thought they had the stopgaps needed for Jeff Gladney and Cameron Dantzler to learn on the fly.
The plan lasted just four weeks. Hill and Hughes both suffered injuries that derailed their seasons. While throwing Gladney and Dantzler into the fire wasn’t bad for their long-term development, the duo struggled throughout the year, and the Vikings’ defense sank to the bottom of the league in total yards and points allowed.
The Vikings’ cornerbacks seem like they’re in a better place than they were a year ago, but there’s nothing certain about this group heading into 2021.
Peterson has the name to generate excitement among Vikings fans, but his effectiveness is still in question. Over the past two seasons, his play has tailed off, which is why the Arizona Cardinals didn’t bring him back. Peterson could be revitalized under Mike Zimmer, but he’s also liable to become late-stage Xavier Rhodes, which would put pressure on the other cornerbacks.
Cameron Dantzler would feel an immense strain if Peterson falters. With Davante Adams and Allen Robinson in the division, Dantzler would have to develop quickly in his sophomore season. Last season’s performance provided optimism that he can eventually become a starting cornerback — but how quickly can he turn into an elite one?
If Dantzler needs another year, the trickle-down effect reaches Alexander. The former second-round pick’s return was positive in the Vikings offseason, but his play with the Cincinnati Bengals didn’t have suitors lining up in free agency. Because he was available for a one-year deal, Alexander’s performance is still in question and would throw Boyd and Hand into the spotlight.
Boyd took a dramatic step back after a solid rookie year while Hand flashed some positives in limited duty. While both could carve out a role in the back half of the depth chart, the Vikings’ secondary would be in trouble if any of the above scenarios come true or there’s an injury toward the top of the depth chart.
Enter Breeland. He isn’t going to be a shutdown cornerback for the Vikings, but at the very least, he can provide an insurance plan if something goes wrong.
Last year, the Vikings passed on that insurance plan when several veteran defensive backs were on the market late into training camp. While they placed trust in what they had, the lack of competition forced Minnesota to head to the free-agent market just to have enough corners to dress on Sunday.
The result was Chris Jones’ business decision against the Dallas Cowboys becoming a signature moment in the season and other players hitting the field who had no business wearing an NFL uniform.
With Breeland a signature away from landing in Minnesota, it would be foolish to make the same bet they did a year ago. This is especially true when the Vikings will be adding roughly $7.5 million in salary-cap space from Kyle Rudolph’s release on June 1. Although the Vikings also need to figure out contract extensions for Brian O’Neill and Danielle Hunter, adding Breeland wouldn’t prevent that.
The Vikings have spent nearly $40 million revamping their defense this offseason. While some position groups still need depth, cornerback is an area they should be aware of. If Minnesota is serious about contending, signing Breeland makes a ton of sense.