The Minnesota Vikings have continued to pull the “you can never have too many cornerbacks” thread this offseason.
Former Tennessee Titans cornerback Tye Smith signed a veteran minimum contract on Thursday. The details of his contract have not been fully released, but Smith, entering his seventh season in the league, garners a $1.075 million veteran minimum salary, per the new collective bargaining rights agreement.
Smith, 28, was drafted in the fifth round of the 2015 NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks after three seasons at Towson. He played in four games on special teams for the Seahawks, attempting to reassemble the Legion of Boom; however, Smith was primarily a practice-squad body during his time in Seattle.
He signed with the Titans in 2017 and became a semi-regular in Tennessee. Appearing in 15 games that season, he furthered his contributions on special teams. He made a strong statement for his promotion to playing more defensive reps after picking off Miami Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler that season.
Smith suffered an injury during Titans training camp and remained on injured reserve throughout the 2018 season. He made a healthy recovery and has since played in 21 games, making six starts.
Smith’s Fit With Vikings
Smith’s body of special teams work has made him as reliable of a tackler as any cornerback heading into training camp. He did not miss a tackle over the past two seasons and is a physical presence at 6-foot, 195 pounds.
That should bode well for his chances after the Vikings watch midseason add Chris Jones shy away from contact several times last season, including on a backbreaking 42-yard touchdown run by the Cowboys that dealt Minnesota a 31-28 loss.
Smith has also proven serviceable in coverage, posting 64.1 and 71.2 Pro Football Focus (PFF) coverage grades in 2020 and 2019, respectively. Under the tutelage of coach Mike Zimmer, Smith can improve his game further as an affordable option for the Vikings.
Cameron Dantzler, named the Vikings’ 2021 breakout player by PFF, and Peterson appear to be the top two options on the outside with Alexander starting in the slot. Harrison Hand, a 2020 fifth-round pick out of Temple, has shined early in OTAs and could make a case as the fourth option at cornerback, followed by Kris Boyd and Nickerson.
An undrafted rookie a season ago, Dylan Mabin remains buried beneath the rest of the cornerbacks where Smith likely joins him. Meanwhile, 2020 first-round pick Jeff Gladney’s status remains in the air.
Smith can likely carve a role for himself on a special teams unit that hopes to have a turnaround season after ranking 31st in 2020.