Richard Sherman is currently on a plane to Tampa Bay to visit the Buccaneers. Yes, those Buccaneers. The Buccaneers who won the Super Bowl last year. The Buccaneers who have Tom Brady as their quarterback. The Buccaneers who never seem to be satisfied with their current roster. Those Buccaneers. All it took was a setback to their cornerback depth, and Bruce Arians and Tampa Bay’s management was ready to reach out to the former All-Pro.
When the Minnesota Vikings went on a defensive spending spree in March, they didn’t think the secondary would be a problem. The Patrick Peterson signing gave them a future Hall of Famer. Adding Bashaud Breeland gave them someone who started in a Super Bowl. Mackensie Alexander knew Mike Zimmer’s scheme. All seemed good.
But after three games, the Vikings’ cornerbacks have been a problem. Minnesota ranks fourth in the NFL with 8.3 net yards allowed per attempt and 24th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric against the pass.
So why can’t the Vikings act like the Buccaneers?
Sherman is coming off a calf strain and had a domestic violence incident this past offseason, yet he remains one of the greatest shut-down cornerbacks in NFL history. Even if he is 70% of his former self he could help upgrade the Vikings’ leaky secondary and give Minnesota the chance to play the style of football Zimmer wants to play.
That hasn’t been the case with Peterson and Breeland as their starting cornerbacks. Peterson’s war against Pro Football Focus has been documented on his All Things Covered podcast, but the truth is he hasn’t been the All-Pro-caliber player he was with Arizona.
Quarterbacks are enjoying a 157.9 passer rating when targeting Peterson this season, and he looks more like the player that has been on the decline over the past couple of years.
The Vikings would love to give Peterson an extra hand but Harrison Smith and Xavier Woods are usually occupied with babysitting Breeland on the other side. PFF has Breeland graded last among 103 qualifying cornerbacks this season, and after allowing 103 yards and a touchdown on nine targets last Sunday, the need for an upgrade is clear.
The problem is, the Vikings don’t have anybody worthy of that spot. Zimmer would rather rip out his good eye than watch Cameron Dantzler play corner right now, and the duo of Kris Boyd and Harrison Hand are better reserved for special teams.
At age 33, Sherman still has the ability to be a good corner. Last season with the San Francisco 49ers, he ranked 11th among qualifying cornerbacks with a 69.6 passer rating when targeted, per Pro Football Focus. He was even better in 2019, when he allowed a 45.3 passer rating and ranked fourth among qualifiers.
Sherman also brings a physical element that Peterson and Breeland don’t have. In 10 seasons, Sherman’s missed tackle percentage has finished over 10% just three times. With Breeland leading the league with nine missed tackles, Sherman could at least keep the play in front of him, which could eliminate some of the big plays the defense has allowed this season.
Like every addition, the Vikings have to consider the financial cost, but they have $4.2 million in cap space, according to Over The Cap. That should be enough to land Sherman on a non-guaranteed deal, which could serve as an upgrade without breaking the bank.
If the Vikings are serious about contending in the NFC, like the Bucs, this is a call they have to make. And they should make it before he walks into Tampa’s building tomorrow. Sherman comes with some concerns, but if he has his head right, he has the chance to save Minnesota’s secondary.
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