The Minnesota Vikings have mostly young talent and question marks in the secondary but some certainty is available to them on the open market.
The entrance of new defensive coordinator Brian Flores necessitates upgrades to the defensive backfield in Minnesota almost as much as do the statistics, which saw the Vikings finish among the league’s worst teams in passing yards surrendered. The upcoming NFL Draft offers Minnesota a chance to improve the unit, as does free agency.
Alex Ballentine of Bleacher Report on Wednesday, March 8, dubbed the addition of New England Patriots cornerback Jonathon Jones a “realistic dream signing” for the Vikings as soon as franchises can begin negotiating with players on March 15.
Twenty-nine-year-old Jonathan Jones would give the Vikings a younger option than [Patrick] Peterson coming off a strong year. The seven-year vet spent most of his time in the slot before becoming a full-time starter on the outside last year. He rewarded the Patriots’ faith in him with 16 starts, four interceptions and just 6.5 yards allowed per target.
His ability to play inside or out and give the Vikings a reliable veteran option would make him the ideal signing. The Vikes have to carve out some cap space, but they should benefit from a relatively deep [free agent] cornerback class headlined by James Bradberry and Jamel Dean.
Vikings Can Pair Jonathon Jones With Patrick Peterson in Secondary
While Ballentine pitched Jones as a potential replacement for Peterson — who was the Vikings best cornerback by a mile in 2022 — perhaps a better option is to pair the two together.
Flores and the Vikings want Peterson back next season, per a report from Darren Wolfson of KSTP on SKOR North’s Mackey and Judd last Monday. Peterson has been vocal over the past couple of months about his willingness and desire to continue playing for the Vikings, which should make negotiations simpler as long as both sides show a willingness to meet in the middle.
Furthermore, Minnesota’s youth movement at cornerback is headlined by Cameron Dantzler and Andrew Booth Jr. Both players showed flashes last year, but both also saw their seasons cut significantly short by injuries. And, as Ballentine noted, when they did play, both Dantzler and Booth surrendered passer ratings of 108.0 or higher, per Pro Football Reference.
Main Obstacle to Improving Secondary is Vikings’ Ability to Spend
The key to retaining Peterson will be his contract — the years, the annual average salary and the amount of guaranteed dollars.
Peterson played on one-year deals in each of the previous two campaigns, for $8 million in 2021 and $4 million in 2022. But the 32-year-old veteran has publicly expressed a desire to remain active in the NFL for four more seasons as a member of a contender. Beyond that, Peterson put up a near Pro Bowl-caliber performance last year, for which he will undoubtedly expect to be compensated.
What Peterson will ask for and what the Vikings can afford to give him could well prove the undoing of an otherwise successful relationship.
Jones, on the other hand, has a clearer market value. Over The Cap set the cornerback’s 2022 player valuation at $8.74 million, while Spotrac projects Jones’ market value at $12.4 million annually over what would ideally be a two-year contract. Peterson’s market value is $6.4 million at an ideal contract length of one year, per Spotrac.
The Vikings are currently $15.8 million over the salary cap and have significant financial decisions coming this offseason about whether to extend quarterback Kirk Cousins and how much to offer wide receiver Justin Jefferson, who is expected to sign a record-breaking extension.