Vikings FA Fits: Could Cameron Sutton Partner with Brian Flores Once Again?

Top Free Agent CB Cam Sutton
Oct 2, 2022; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Cameron Sutton (20) takes the field against the New York Jets during the first quarter at Acrisure Stadium. The Jets won 24-20. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Cameron Sutton is going to be in the Vikings rumors in the coming weeks.

The addition of Brian Flores – who coached for the Steelers last season – makes the Pittsburgh FAs look like more plausible additions. After all, coaches commonly look to reunite with people they’re comfortable with in their new location. Perhaps things will be no different for Flores, especially given that Minnesota has such a startling need at corner.

Now, the possibility of retaining both Patrick Peterson and Duke Shelley remains. Even still, a Sutton addition could make a lot of sense for the Vikings.

The Basic Details: Cameron Sutton

  • 27 years old. 5’11”, 188 pounds.
  • 2017 third-round selection.
  • 15 starts (16 games played) in 2022.
  • 3 INTs, 15 PDs, 43 tackles, and 1 TFL.
  • 72.2 PFF Grade, 27th among 118 corners.

The Talk Around Town

PFF lists Sutton as their 22nd free agent:

Sutton quietly continued to excel in a Pittsburgh coverage unit that was otherwise very exploitable this season, with 2022 being just his second season as a full-time starter on the outside. Sutton signed a two-year, $9 million deal in 2021 that he outplayed in 2022, earning a 71.0 coverage grade and allowing just 411 receiving yards — the ninth fewest among cornerbacks with at least 400 coverage snaps on the season.

Sutton’s versatility as a defensive back who can still line up in the slot when called upon provides added value for interested teams, as well. 

3 Steelers Free Agents That Could Reunite with Brian Flores as Vikings
Jan 8, 2023; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Levi Wallace (29) celebrates an interception with cornerback Arthur Maulet (35) and cornerback Cameron Sutton (20) and safety Damontae Kazee (23) and safety Terrell Edmunds (34) and linebacker Alex Highsmith (56) and safety Minkah Fitzpatrick (39) and safety Elijah Riley (37) against the Cleveland Browns during the second quarter at Acrisure Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

Gregg Rosenthal puts the Steelers corner at 27th in the NFL rankings, providing a brief, delcarative statement: “An improving starting cornerback with plenty of experience is rare in this market.”

The ESPN list of top free agents features Sutton coming in at 27th, as well:

Sutton, a third-round pick in 2017, is coming off his best pro season, as he finished with three interceptions and 15 pass breakups. He’s a scheme-versatile corner who can find the ball in zone coverage or stick to wide receivers in man, with the transition speed to close on throws. Defensive backs with this type of ball production don’t stay on the market for long.

The Fit in Minnesota

No one can debate that the defense needs to improve. Some of that improvement is going to flow from upgrading the personnel.

Brian Flores is going to be changing how the Vikings’ defense operates. Part of that change will involve a considerably more aggressive defense, a reality that is going to impact the secondary. Bringing in (and/or retaining) players who can bring the Flores vision to life is thus crucial.

At 27, Sutton is neither young nor old. A decline starts for some corners at this age but many go on to have several more years of great play. Kwesi Adofo-Mensah will need to do his best to project how things will proceed with Sutton, who allowed a modest 47.9% of passes into his coverage to be completed last season. The overall passer rating when targeting him was a very modest 65.3. More concerning, perhaps, is that he has allowed 9 TDs over these past couple seasons.

Nov 21, 2021; East Rutherford, N.J., USA; Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores during a game against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

As the above PFF quotation demonstrates, Sutton has some good versatility. He played 655 snaps out wide but also had 185 snaps in the slot in 2022. Being able to move inside and outside makes life easier for the defensive coordinator.

Sutton’s 15 PDs were easily a career high. Previously, his career high was in 2020 when he had 8 (a season when he only had 6 starts and only played 53% of the snaps).

If Minnesota sees Sutton as primarily a slot corner, there’s a strong chance they won’t be as willing to send over major money. Generally speaking, outside corners are the ones who bring in the elite cash. PFF puts the Sutton projection at $8.5 million per season. Spotrac comes in a bit lower, suggesting that a $7.6 million annual average is more accurate. Neither number is prohibitively expensive, especially if Adofo-Mensah kicks money into 2024 and 2025.

With free agency a little more than a month away, the speculation is only going to intensify. Be prepared for plenty of discussion why Cameron Sutton is a great fit in Minnesota.

Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Reference, PFF, and Over the Cap helped with this piece.

The FA Fits series is neither predictive nor prescriptive. The articles don’t predict who Minnesota will sign and nor do they prescribe who Minnesota should sign. Rather, they’re merely an exploration of the fit between upcoming free agents and Minnesota’s roster. So far, we have considered LB David Long, EDGE Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, & WR Mecole Hardman.