Cornerback is a position the Minnesota Vikings were unafraid to spend on in 2020.
In response to the exodus of all three of its 2019 starters at cornerback, the Vikings drafted three cornerbacks in the 2020 NFL Draft. The team signed another four cornerbacks in free agency throughout the 2020 season to address a rash of injuries.
Now, Minnesota is cutting loose ends to create cap space ahead of the first day of the league year on March 17.
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Vikings Cut 2 Primary Practice-Squad Adds
The Vikings released Cordrea Tankersley and Tae Hayes on Friday after both players were picked up late in 2020 and signed future deals in January.
Haynes appeared in one game for Minnesota after playing a pair of games for the Miami Dolphins last season. Tankersley played two games for the Vikings, starting against the Detroit Lions in Week 16.
Tankersley, 27, was a third-round draft pick by the Dolphins in 2017 and showed promise as starting cornerback from Clemson’s 2017 national champion team. Hayes, 23, was rostered by the Jacksonville Jaguars after going undrafted in 2019.
Both players were considered practice-squad stashes and added depth to the group that saw Mike Hughes, Holton Hill and Mark Fields II land on the injured reserve and rookie Cameron Dantzler battle injuries throughout the season.
Minnesota saves $450,000 by cutting Tankersley and Hayes, per Pioneer Press reporter Chris Tomasson.
Cameron Dantzler Poised for Breakout Sophomore Season
The Vikings’ decision to draft Cameron Dantzler in the third round of last year’s draft paid dividends as Dantzler emerged as the best rookie cornerback after a resurgent second half of the season.
He finished the final six games of the season allowing just 13 receptions on 27 targets for 128 yards. He allowed zero touchdowns, picked off two passes and broke up another pair of passes, allowing a 31.1 quarterback rating. He posted the highest Pro Football Focus grade (88.0) of any cornerback in that span.
Dantzler, the 11th cornerback taken in the 2020 NFL Draft, was named to the Pro Football Focus All-Rookie team for his second-half performance.
Here’s what Ben Linsey wrote:
Dantzler’s season can be separated into two distinct segments. Before his injury in Week 8, Dantzler sported a coverage grade of 52.4, allowing a passer rating of 133.8 into his coverage. After returning to the field in Week 11, he earned a coverage grade of 83.9 while allowing a passer rating of 41.9 on passes into his coverage.
The receivers that Dantzler lined up across from most frequently during that stretch included D.J. Chark, Allen Robinson, D.J. Moore, Robby Anderson and Mike Evans — a list that includes some quality opponents.
That late-season surge earns Dantzler the first-team spot here, and it gives the Vikings some reason for optimism in their young cornerback group heading into the 2021 season.
Vikings Need More at Cornerback
Despite Dantzler’s potential as a top outside cornerback in the league, Minnesota still needs help at cornerback.
Jeff Gladney, drafted No. 32 overall in the 2020 NFL Draft, is poised to remain the team’s slot corner, but beyond Gladney, the Vikings don’t have many reliable options for the spot opposite of Dantzler.
Gladney played outside before Hughes suffered a season-ending neck injury. Given Hughes’ injury history, the Vikings should consider bringing in a veteran from free agency or spend another early-round pick on another cornerback in the upcoming draft.
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