Vikings Abruptly Part Ways With Starting Defensive Back

Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, Vikings

Getty General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah of the Minnesota Vikings.

The Minnesota Vikings on Friday cut ties yet another starter from last season, the third such move by the organization inside of a week.

Changes in the secondary were expected from the moment the team hired Brian Flores to run the defense, though it was veteran cornerback Patrick Peterson who was the prime suspect for the cutting room floor. As it turns out, Flores and the front office have decided to pursue a new deal for Peterson and opted instead to waive fellow starting cornerback Cameron Dantzler Sr.

The Vikings announced the move via the team’s official Twitter account on March 10.

“The #Vikings have waived CB Cameron Dantzler Sr.,” the post said.

Dantzler Struggled With Injury, Inconsistency During Vikings Tenure

Cameron Dantzler

GettyCornerback Cameron Dantzler Sr., formerly of the Minnesota Vikings, reacts against the Philadelphia Eagles after a tackle during a game at Lincoln Financial Field on September 19, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

Minnesota selected Dantzler out of Mississippi State with the No. 89 overall pick in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft. He played three seasons with the Vikings as was headed into the fourth and final year of his rookie contract.

The move appears to be less about money than it is about fit for the Vikings secondary, as waiving Dantzler saves the team only a little more than $2.7 million in salary cap space, a number that pales in comparison to the $9.5 million the Vikings saved by cutting linebacker Eric Kendricks on March 6 and the $6.4 million they cut off next year’s salary cap by releasing wide receiver Adam Thielen on Friday. Minnesota was still nearly $7.5 million over the cap following the departures of Dantzler and Thielen.

Dantzler had something of a rollercoaster tenure in Minneapolis, kicking off his career with a solid rookie season but struggling with injuries and inconsistencies across his final two campaigns. He missed seven games during the 2022 regular season and was not available for the Vikings playoff loss to the New York Giants over Wild Card Weekend in January.

The cornerback leaves the organization having amassed 149 tackles, including six tackles for loss, 17 passes defensed, three interceptions and three forced fumbles in 26 starts across 35 game appearances.

Vikings Likely to Add to Young Stable of Cornerbacks Over Offseason

Brian Flores

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

Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has designs on getting younger, faster and cheaper this offseason, particularly on the defensive side of the football.

They don’t come much younger or cheaper than Dantzler, who turns 25 years old in September and represented just a little north of 1% of the Vikings’ salary cap on the 2023 balance sheet. The logical conclusion is that Flores had serious questions about Dantzler’s durability and/or whether the 6-foot, 2-inch and 190-pound cornerback could hold his own in the more demanding press-man coverage schemes Flores is bringing with him to Minnesota.

Dantzler allowed 41 receptions and a career-worst reception rate of 77.4% per Pro Football Reference. Opposing quarterbacks put up a collective rating of 111.1 when throwing to Dantzler’s man, posing serious questions about his ability to defend talented pass catchers when stranded on a coverage island due to blitz packages and the like.

Minnesota also drafted cornerbacks Andrew Booth Jr. and Akayleb Evans in 2022, both of whom will return from injury by training camp. The pick up and subsequent emergence of former Chicago Bears cornerback Duke Shelley also makes Dantzler’s departure less damaging.

But even if Booth, Evans and Shelley all play roles in the Vikings secondary next season, expect the team to add to the cornerback position over the coming months via trade, free agency or the draft.

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