The Minnesota Vikings still have some serious questions in the secondary with the start of the 2023 regular season just one week away.
Not only is the system in Minnesota new under defensive coordinator Brian Flores, but the primary players in defensive backfield are also fresh following the departures of cornerbacks Patrick Peterson and Cameron Dantzler Sr. during the offseason. The most likely candidates to replace them come next Sunday’s regular-season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are free agent acquisition Byron Murphy Jr. and second-year DB Akayleb Evans, the latter of whom was a fourth-round draft pick in 2022 and started just twice during his rookie campaign.
The rest of the cornerback room remain question marks, namely the oft-injured Andrew Booth Jr. and third-round rookie Mekhi Blackmon. The two have minimal NFL experience between them, while free agent acquisition JoeJuan Williams has been relegated to the practice squad, at least for now.
Alex Ballentine of Bleacher Report pitched a solution on Saturday, September 2, that involves Minnesota spending the minimal amount of salary cap space it has left to add veteran CB Bradley Roby to the roster and enhance both the group’s depth and experience.
Going into the season with almost no experience at a position as crucial as corner is a scary proposition.
Bradley Roby should be on their radar. He’s been on a lot of good teams, including the Denver Broncos team that won Super Bowl 50. Roby is on the downside of his career at 31 years old, but he played well when the New Orleans Saints called upon him last season. … He would be a strong veteran presence for a group of young players who might need it.
Bradley Roby Represents Value, Depth Play for Vikings at CB
The Broncos selected Roby out of Ohio State with the No. 31 overall pick in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft. He appeared in all but one regular season game across five seasons in Denver before inking a major pay day with the Houston Texans in 2019.
The Texans shelled out $31.5 million over a three-year deal to land Roby in March 2020. Houston traded the CB to the Saints in September of the following season in exchange for third- and sixth-round picks. New Orleans released Roby this offseason.
Minnesota has just shy of $3.5 million in cap space as of Sunday, which should be plenty to at least begin negotiations on a one-year deal for a player of Roby. He appeared in 13 games for the Saints in 2022, starting 10 of those. Roby tallied 36 tackles and five pass breakups while allowing a collective completion percentage of 54.0% to opposing QBs across 63 targets in pass coverage, per Pro Football Reference.
The Vikings have spent several draft picks and a good deal of money trying to improve the secondary since general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah took the reins of the organization ahead of the 2022 campaign, which makes cornerback a likely place for the team to spend if more spending is on the docket.
Akayleb Evans Key to Vikings Secondary This Season, Also Concern
Perhaps the best case for the Vikings to sign Roby, or to pursue another free agent like him at the same position, is the uncertainty surrounding Evans.
Evans played in just 10 games last season, landing on the injured reserve list (IR) to finish out the year after injuries forced him into the league’s concussion protocol on three separate occasions.
At 6’2″ and nearly 200 pounds, Evans has the body type and skill set to potentially thrive in Flores’ scheme, which requires cornerbacks to lock down primary wide receivers in single-coverage more often than most others due to aggressive blitz packages. That said, Evans was far from a lockdown corner during his rookie campaign.
Evans surrendered a collective 64.0% completion percentage and 110.7 rating to opposing QBs across 25 pass attempts that came his way in coverage. He recorded two pass breakups and zero interceptions.
Roby isn’t a long-term answer in Minnesota, though he could be a short-term value play in a secondary that was among the NFL’s worst one year ago.