8-Time Vikings Pro Bowler Breaks Silence on Bolting for AFC Team

Kevin O'Connell, Vikings

Getty Head coach Kevin O'Connell of the Minnesota Vikings looks on during a game against the Chicago Bears in January 2023.

After two seasons with the Minnesota Vikings, veteran cornerback Patrick Peterson is moving on.

Peterson announced on the All Things Covered podcast on March 13 that he will sign with the Pittsburgh Steelers this offseason — although his first choice was to stay in Minnesota.

“No doubt about it, I definitely wanted to go back to Minnesota,’’ Peterson said on the podcast he co-hosts with his cousin, former Steelers cornerback Bryant McFadden. “I even before I made the decision to … plan on signing with Pittsburgh, (said), ‘Are you sure?’ I wanted to come back. We just can’t make it happen.”

Peterson’s future with the Vikings was in question with the arrival of new defensive coordinator Brian Flores, whose past defenses demand more press coverage from cornerbacks that would be difficult for Peterson to sustain for 17 games. Despite concerns about the fit with Peterson, Flores was reported to “absolutely” want Peterson back, according to KSTP’s Darren Wolfson.

However, the Vikings’ financial situation, currently $7.8 million over the salary cap, may have gotten in the way. Although Peterson, who played on a one-year, $4 million contract last offseason, didn’t say it was about money, he said it was a business decision to part ways.

“It was all clean, good, adult, men business,” Peterson said. “That’s how it was supposed to be. It wasn’t curve balls. It was how it was supposed to be and I can’t do nothing but appreciate that.”

Peterson has been vocal about his grievances with the Arizona Cardinals organization after he was left hanging in free agency in the 2021 offseason. He shared that he has only positives to look back on his time in Minnesota.

“I got nothing but love for the Skol Nation,’’ Peterson said. “Everybody in that Minnesota community, they just took me in with open arms. I felt like it was home. It really did. …I thank Minnesota for giving me an opportunity to come there and showcase my talent.”

Vikings Starting From Scratch at Cornerback

Losing an eight-time Pro Bowler and future Hall of Famer in Peterson is a blow to the Vikings cornerback room no matter how you cut it. Beyond his play, his locker room presence was touted time and time again, especially in the Vikings’ historic comeback over the Indianapolis Colts.

Minnesota will have to start from scratch at cornerback with Peterson’s departure. The Vikings also cut 2020 third-round pick Cameron Dantlzer, who the Washington Commanders claimed on March 13.

Currently, the Vikings have only rookie cornerbacks Akayleb Evans and Andrew Booth Jr. coming back from their 53-man roster. Both rookies had their first season in the league shut down due to injury. They accounted for just 7.8% of defensive snaps at cornerback.

Duke Shelley is a candidate to be re-signed and slot cornerback Chandon Sullivan has also expressed his desire to return.

Vikings Must Add Veteran Presence to CB Room

Vikings mock drafts have selected cornerback in the first round more than any other position — but Minnesota will need more than a first-round investment at the position.

Finding a veteran to guide the young cornerback room will be tantamount to Flores’ attempt to turn around one of the league’s worst defenses from a season ago.

Flores has a pedigree for prioritizing the position in his past, which could lead to a splashy veteran free-agent signing.

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