NFL.com Coins Patrick Peterson a ‘Bounce-back Guarantee’
Ninth-worst in passing yards allowed. Third-worst in yards per pass allowed. Sixth-worst in overall yards allowed. Fourth-worst in points allowed.
That is the uphill scuffle in front of Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer this season as those rankings indicate the team’s defensive performance in 2020. The entire season went pear-shaped for Zimmer, ending up in a playoff absence and middling 7-9 record.
Minnesota opted to retain Zimmer and quarterback Kirk Cousins, focusing the offseason on rebuilding the defense with adequate depth, drafting the final pieces to a promising offensive line, and lining up Kellen Mond from Texas A&M University as the heir apparent to Cousins.
It was a productive, eventful offseason.
The most stunning moment transpired on St. Patrick’s Day. Out of nowhere, free-agent cornerback Patrick Peterson finally departed the Arizona Cardinals, where he spent a decade, for the Vikings – a team not theorized to be anywhere near the Peterson Sweepstakes. But the fact that nobody saw it coming was totally irrelevant. Peterson inked a one-year, $10 million deal with general manager Rick Spielman, ensuring for the franchise that upstart rookie CB Cameron Dantzler has some reputable tutelage during his sophomore campaign.
Peterson was just one of the countless defensive additions. Outside of the defense, Spielman conducted virtually zero business on the offensive side of free agency, instead placating his pal, Zimmer, who has a loud reputation for defense, defense, and oh by the way – more defense.
All told, the Vikings added Peterson, Mackensie Alexander (CB), Bashaud Breeland (CB), Amari Henderson (CB), Parry Nickerson (CB), Sheldon Richardson (DT), Tye Smith (CB), Dalvin Tomlinson (DT), Nick Vigil (LB), Stephen Weatherly (DE), and Xavier Woods (S).
And that’s just to date. The team has about $14 million remaining in cap space as of June 24, so even more names could be added, particularly at right defensive end – a spot where the team has a significant talent drop-off from the days of Everson Griffen.
The Peterson move, which really started the offseason excitement, is heralded by most football brains. Gil Brandt from NFL.com is one of them. He authored a piece on Friday that detailed “guaranteed bounce-back” players for 2021, and Peterson checked in at #7 on that list. Brandt wrote:
“In 2019, Xavier Rhodes had one of his worst seasons as a professional, left the Vikings, then enjoyed a renaissance in Indianapolis. I could see Peterson following a similar path after joining (coincidentally) Minnesota. Peterson allowed a passer rating of 99.1 and a completion percentage above expectation of 8.1 percent in the final season of his 10-year run in Arizona. But perhaps moving to a team where he feels “appreciated” will be enough to rejuvenate the 30-year-old eight-time Pro Bowler. The Vikings’ signing looks even better given that young corner Jeff Gladney could be facing discipline following his arrest on a charge of family violence.“
The Vikings rode a rollercoaster of cornerback emotion this spring. First, they weren’t deep enough with only Dantzler and Gladney as the starters. Then, Spielman added Peterson and Alexander — and the crew was deep enough, allowing just enough ammunition for “Zimmer is obsessed with CBs” chatter to reverberate. After that, Gladney got in trouble, and the team was skimpy again. Breeland’s union with the team ended that narrative a few weeks ago. The Vikings are now either just deep enough or too deep at cornerback, depending on one’s perspective.
The Peterson move is low-risk, high-reward. Now that Zimmer has dozens (hyperbole) of CBs to utilize, the defense should be just fine if Peterson isn’t the same All-Pro player from Arizona. If Peterson ignites – per the Brandt prophecy – well, great. He can continue the second act of his career with the Vikings, potentially spending 3-5 stellar seasons in the North Star State as he shines up his Hall of Fame resume. Peterson is likely a few good seasons and one Super Bowl ring shy from serious Hall of Fame consideration.