Vikings Breakout D-Back Ditches Team for AFC West Squad

Brian Flores

Courtesy of Vikings Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores had his introductory press conference on February 15, 2022.

The Minnesota Vikings secondary said goodbye to yet another of its prominent 2022 cornerbacks, upping the number of departures at the position to three this offseason.

Free agent Duke Shelley signed with the Las Vegas Raiders on Thursday, March 23, per that franchise’s public relations Twitter account.

“#Raiders roster move: Signed free agent Duke Shelley,” Raiders PR tweeted.

Vikings Continue Major Changes in Secondary With Shelley Departure

duke Shelley

GettyCornerback Duke Shelley, formerly of the Minnesota Vikings, celebrates after knocking a pass away in the end zone during overtime against the Buffalo Bills at Highmark Stadium on November 13, 2022 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Isaiah Vazquez/Getty Images)

Shelley now joins the likes of cornerbacks Patrick Peterson and Cameron Dantlzer, both of whom have also joined different teams this offseason.

Peterson, formerly a free agent, signed a two-year deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Vikings chose to waive Dantzler with one year remaining on his rookie deal prior to the official opening of the league’s free agency period on March 15. The Washington Commander claimed Dantzler off of the waiver wire subsequently.

Shelley was a midseason pickup for the Vikings after spending the first three years of his career with the NFC North Division rival Chicago Bears. He played in 11 games during his one-year tenure in Minnesota and earned five starts. He played 52% of the team’s defensive snaps across those 11 contests and surrendered just 21 completions for 266 yards and zero touchdowns. Opposing quarterbacks completed only 45.7% of the passes thrown Shelley’s way during the 2022 regular season, per Pro Football Reference.

The former sixth-round selection earned a stellar coverage grade of 84.9 and an overall player grade of 81.5 from Pro Football Focus (PFF), designating him as one of the top-end cover cornerbacks in the entire NFL last season.

Vikings Ink Murphy as First New CB in Defensive Overhaul

GettyCornerback Byron Murphy Jr., formerly of the Arizona Cardinals, breaks up a pass intended for wide receiver K.J. Osborn of the Minnesota Vikings during a game at U.S. Bank Stadium on October 30, 2022 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)

Peterson and Dantzler represented the vast majority of the Vikings’ remaining starts and minutes at cornerback after Shelley, with Peterson starting all 17 games and playing 95% of the defensive snaps and Dantzler starting nine of the 10 contests in which he appeared, playing in 75% of the defensive snaps in those outings.

As such, Minnesota is essentially resetting the position with an almost entirely new cast of characters save for second-year players Andrew Booth Jr. and Akayleb Evans, both of whom missed big chunks of last season due to serious injuries.

The team has already brought in former Arizona Cardinals cornerback Byron Murphy on a two-year deal worth $17.5 million. Murphy figures to start in new Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores‘ re-imagined defense, which will more aggressively pursue opposing quarterbacks and require corners to effectively play press-man coverage — frequently without the help of a safety over the top.

Safety Harrison Smith will be back in the secondary next season after agreeing to what is essentially a 50% pay cut. However, linebacker Eric Kendricks was cut earlier this month and has since landed with the Los Angeles Chargers, while the future of edge rusher Za’Darius Smith remains an open question after he requested his release ahead of free agency.

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