Former Cincinnati Bengals first round pick Dre Kirkpatrick informed his teammates that he would be leaving the team on Tuesday morning. According to Ian Rapoport, the Bengals confirmed his release, meaning he is a free agent. Kirkpatrick was the Bengals first round selection in 2012 when Mike Zimmer was still their defensive coordinator and resident cornerback guru.
The Vikings may be interested in Kirkpatrick for this reason and their lack of veteran leadership at the cornerback position with the departures of Trae Waynes, Xavier Rhodes, and Mackensie Alexander. Ironically, both Waynes and Alexander went to Cincinnati which probably prompted the team to let Kirkpatrick walk.
This is not a new situation for Mike Zimmer. He brought Terence Newman to Minnesota to Minnesota in 2015 after the two had been in Dallas together from 2003-2006 and in Cincinnati from 2012-2013. Newman gave the Vikings a much needed veteran presence at that time, and almost certainly contributed to the growth of the young Waynes and Rhodes.
Kirkpatrick has 302 career tackles, three sacks, 65 pass deflections, 10 interceptions and two touchdowns in his eight year career. Last season, Kirkpatrick only played in six games after being on injured reserve for much of the season with a knee injury. He would easily be the most experienced corner on the Vikings roster.
Of the players left on the team, only Mike Hughes, Holton Hill, and Kris Boyd have seen significant time in their short careers. Hughes is entering his third year, but lost most of his rookie season to injury. Hill lost time last season to suspension. Boyd played sparingly on defense last season, his first in the league, but was a special teams standout.
The sticking point for the Vikings landing Kirkpatrick would be his contract demands. Just last season, he earned $9.4 Million. That’s a number that the Vikings would have a tough time getting close to. According to Spotrac.com, they have approximately $11.375 million in cap space and need about $5.5 million to sign draft picks and need to have some left over to sign free agents during the regular season.
Despite Kirkpatrick’s ties to Mike Zimmer and the Vikings lack of veteran presence at cornerback, once again the team’s cap situation makes it hard to make a move here. Kirkpatrick probably won’t demand another $9 million, but he’ll likely be able to land in the $4-7 million range. The Vikings don’t even have that much to spend unless the cut or restructure another player.