Vikings’ All-Pro Defender Linked to Patriots in Free Agency

Patrick Peterson, Minnesota Vikings

Getty Patrick Peterson #7 of the Minnesota Vikings celebrates after breaking up a pass intender for KhaDarel Hodge #18 of the Detroit Lions during the first quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium on October 10, 2021 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

The Minnesota Vikings face some serious questions this offseason as to their subpar secondary, including what additions might be made to improve the team’s poor pass defense and which players they should let walk.

At, or near, the top of that list is a decision on eight-time Pro-Bowl cornerback Patrick Peterson who will enter unrestricted free agency less than two months from now.

Brad Spielberger, of Pro Football Focus (PFF), connected Peterson to the New England Patriots‘ offseason activities in a piece published on Thursday, January 20.

“When signing with the Vikings, Peterson mentioned that then-head coach Mike Zimmer had a track record of success working with older players in the secondary. Bill Belichick, of course, has done the same with a handful of notable players over the years, and Peterson could look for the same situation,” Spielberger wrote.

While Belichick’s track record with defensive backs may interest Peterson, the cornerback’s willingness to move fluidly between positions may be of equal interest to the Patriots.

“Peterson even went so far as to discuss the possibility of playing safety, if that’s what coaches deemed him best suited to do,” Spielberger continued. “His experience and flexibility could be appealing to Belichick if he’s looking to add a veteran to a young cornerback room.”

Peterson Experiment in Minnesota Did Not Produce Desired Results

Vikings CB Patrick Peterson

GettyVikings cornerback Patrick Peterson could be on his way out of Minnesota after just one season. 

The addition of Peterson to the mix in Minnesota did not produce big-time results. The unit finished near the bottom of the league in 2021, ranking 25th among all NFL secondaries, per Anthony Treash of PFF.

“Minnesota put forth some of the worst cornerback play in the NFL,” Treash wrote. “The Vikings’ gave up the third-most yards on the outside (1,802) while also tying for the third-fewest plays on the ball (18) at the position.”

The blame, he added, was plentiful enough to go around the Vikings’ secondary.

“None of their cornerbacks had a quality campaign, but Bashaud Breeland — who was waived in mid-December — was the main reason for the outside struggles. His 45.3 coverage grade was the fourth-lowest among qualifying cornerbacks,” Treash continued. “Slot corner Mackensie Alexander‘s down season didn’t help matters, either. He finished with the lowest slot coverage grade in the NFL.”

Peterson was not precisely the problem in Minnesota’s defensive backfield, but he wasn’t much of a solution, either. The three-time All-Pro finished the year with 5 passes defensed and 1 interception that he returned 66 yards for a touchdown, per Pro Football Reference. He also registered 45 tackles, including 2 tackles for loss, across 13 starts in 2021.

Taking traditional stats and quantifying them along with advanced analytics, PFF ranked Peterson as the very definition of a middle of the road corner, slotting him 60th out of 122 qualifying players at the position.

“Peterson’s one-year flier in Minnesota was not a success, but it doesn’t seem like the wheels have completely fallen off the soon-to-be 32-year-old cornerback,” Spielberger wrote. “He still managed to log 884 snaps, albeit while earning a 61.0 coverage grade — the second-lowest of his career besides his rookie season.”

Peterson May Want Out of Minnesota After Coach, GM Changes

Rick Spielman and Mike Zimmer

GettyMinnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer and general manager Rick Spielman were both fired on Monday, January 10, 2022, per the NFL Network.

Peterson, who spent his entire career with the Arizona Cardinals before joining the Vikings this past year, was high on the team and the track record of head coach Mike Zimmer after signing a one-year, $8 million contract.

“Looking at a couple teams, I thought Coach Zim himself stood out to me. His reputation speaks for itself. The things he does with not only the defense but with defensive backs,” Peterson told NFL Network after signing in Minnesota. “Deion Sanders, Leon Hall, Terence Newman, Johnathon Joseph, the list goes on, and he’s able to further got those guys’ careers. Those guys played 13-, 14-plus years. Coach Zim has something that he’s given those guys to help repave their career for new heights.”

“The coaching around here, the atmosphere around here, it was everything for me. It checked all the boxes,” Peterson continued. “This team has nothing but a winning pedigree, and this is the organization I want to be around.”

A couple important things have changed since Peterson made those comments. First, the Vikings (8-9) put together a losing season, the team’s second in a row. Then, they fired Zimmer and general manager Rick Spielman with the intent to start from scratch with a new football philosophy. Whether that philosophy will appeal to Peterson is an open question, and the same is true of the yet to be named head coach and general manager swooping in to implement it.

The Patriots, however, are more stable at the top of the organization. They also made the playoffs as a Wildcard in the AFC this season and boast the third-best secondary in the NFL, according to PFF rankings. All of the facts may add up to a meaningful veteran addition to the defensive backfield in New England, while the Vikings look to go another way with their own secondary.

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