Bleacher Report Lists Vikings as “Best Fit” for All-Pro Defender

Jan 9, 2022; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Antoine Winfield Jr. (31) recovers the ball the ball against the Carolina Panthers during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings saw a massive turnaround on the defensive side of the ball with Brian Flores as defensive coordinator.

After ranking near the bottom of the league in virtually every metric during the 2022 season, the Vikings allowed the 14th-fewest points and 16th-fewest yards during 2023, and there was a stretch from Weeks 6-14 where the unit was truly elite. Minnesota allowed 25+ points just once during that eight-game stretch, and they forced multiple turnovers in six of those games. As a result, Minnesota went 6-2 in that stretch before screeching to a halt over the final three weeks.

Remarkably, this turnaround came without a ton of major acquisitions to the defense. Of course, Byron Murphy helped provide a veteran presence to the secondary, but Minnesota parted ways with Za’Darius Smith, and never really found a consistent option to replace him off the edge.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears
Oct 15, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores watches his team play against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

This offseason, though, the Vikings need to be proactive about adding talent to their roster on the defensive side. A number of key contributors are free agents, including Hunter, and if the Vikings are going to be competitive in 2024, they will need to revamp their defense.

One way to do that, according to Bleacher Report’s Alex Ballentine, could be by bringing in All-Pro safety Antoine Winfield Jr, who is set to enter free agency in March.

Vikings Listed as “Best Fit” for All-Pro Defender

Dec 24, 2023; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Antoine Winfield Jr. (31) reacts after recovering a fumble against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the fourth quarter at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Winfield is one of the more versatile players in the NFL, playing over 150 snaps in the slot, box, and free safety in 2023, per PFF. Ballentine laid out this versatility, writing, “Whether he’s lined up in the slot, playing as a box safety or tracking down deep balls as a deep safety, he provides the versatility to fit in with any scheme. His experience with a successful Buccaneers franchise should make him an attractive addition for numerous suitors.”

Ballentine wrote of his fit in Minnesota, “One [team] that should be particularly interested is the Minnesota Vikings. From a sheer football standpoint, Winfield fits in with what they do on defense. Like Todd Bowles’ system in Tampa Bay, Brian Flores has brought a blitz-happy approach to Minnesota that relies on multiple looks and blitz packages to wreak havoc.”

Winfield has enjoyed a marvelous start to his NFL career with the Buccaneers, including a Super Bowl during his rookie season in 2020. The safety started every game during that campaign, and he knows what it takes to help his team get to the promised land.

This season, he totaled 122 tackles, six sacks, 12 passes defended, three interceptions, and a league-leading six forced fumbles as the Buccaneers won the NFC South again behind their strong defensive play.

Jan 7, 2024; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Antoine Winfield Jr. (31) during pregame warm ups against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Winfield’s fit in Minnesota becomes more intriguing when considering the fact that his father enjoyed a ton of success in a purple jersey. When Antoine Winfield Sr. began his NFL career, he played five seasons with the Buffalo Bills from 1999-2003, and then he signed with the Minnesota Vikings prior to the 2004 season, totaling nine seasons in Minnesota from 2004-2012.

In total, the cornerback recorded 737 tackles, 45 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, 74 passes defended, and 21 interceptions with the Vikings. Winfield Jr. can follow a similar route after spending his first four seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Granted, the Vikings do have a number of talented safeties on the roster already, including Camryn Bynum, Josh Metellus, and the veteran Harrison Smith, but that could change in the next couple of years. Smith could be a cap casualty this year, and Bynum’s contract is set to come to an end following the 2024 season.

As Ballentine mentions, Flores utilizes a blitz-heavy defense, and his safeties played a big part in that success. It would take a big contract, but the Vikings have a chance to land one of the best players at the position if they were to pursue Winfield this offseason.


Editor’s Note: Statistics for this article were found via Pro Football Focus and Pro Football Reference.

Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho and managing editor of PurplePTSD.com. When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh enjoys running, gaming, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. Check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken.

Share: