Vikings Need Immediate Help at Zimmer’s Favorite Position

Photo: David Berding – Getty Images

This was supposed to be a “make or break” season for the Minnesota Vikings and the Spielman/Zimmer regime that’s run the show for nearly a decade. At 3-3, the 2021 season is still in limbo but we do know a few things.

Kirk Cousins is in his fourth year (with one $45M season remaining) in purple and playing the best football of his career. His offensive weapons are among the best in the league and they have a defense Mike Zimmer seems much more comfortable with. Even the offensive line has looked competent of late.

So with the trade deadline (Nov. 2) fast approaching, the Vikings have decisions to make. Do they stand pat and hope the roster, as is, can produce better than the .500 results they’ve shown so far? Or, does the front office need to make a trade that will put their depth chart in better position for 2nd-half success?

Some might even argue that the Wilf’s should rip the Mike Zimmer band-aid off now, fire their head coach and become sellers at the deadline. But let’s be realistic, none of that is happening. If the Minnesota Vikings do make a move in the next week, it will be one that they believe makes them better immediately.

Thin at CB

When you look up and down this roster, the obvious weak spot is at cornerback. CB1, Patrick Peterson was just placed on injured reserve so he’ll be forced to miss at least three games. To make matters worse, the next four-game stretch for the Vikings might be the most difficult they will face, in terms of QB play.

Even with a healthy Patrick Peterson, the Vikings were likely to struggle against QB’s like Dak Prescott, Lamar Jackson, Justin Herbert, and Aaron Rodgers. Without him, Zimmer will be forced to turn to Bashaud Breeland and Cam Dantzler.

Breeland was awful through the first few weeks but he’s been a new man ever since his back and forth with Chris Tomasson (Pioneer Press) regarding PFF scores a few weeks ago. If Spielman doesn’t deal for another CB next week then Breeland will be asked to do a lot more, against much better quarterbacks.

Dantzler’s 2021 Rollercoaster

On the other side, Minnesota has second year cornerback, Cam Dantzler. After an impressive rookie campaign full of playing time, his sophomore season has been quite the rollercoaster ride. His snap percentage has been up and down throughout, which makes consistency difficult.

Here is Dantzler’s snap percentage week by week so far (via PFF).

  • 1: Inactive
  • 2: 26% snaps played
  • 3: 0% snaps played
  • 4: 92% snaps played
  • 5: 0% snaps played
  • 6: 34% snaps played

Mike Zimmer has been reluctant to trust Dantzler, for whatever reason, even when Breeland has struggled. Unless Spielman makes a move, Zimmer will be forced to once again list Dantzler as a starting CB on the depth chart.

Option #1: Splash Trade

There are a couple of ways the Vikings could approach a cornerback trade at the deadline. Option #1 would be to deal for a star CB that would immediately make the secondary better.

If this is the route Rick Spielman chooses, the most obvious target would be Dolphins CB, Xavien Howard, who wants out of Miami. Howard requested a trade before the season and his play has fallen off since, making him gettable without breaking the bank.

Dealing for Xavien Howard would probably cost the Vikings some nice draft capital, including a second or third round pick. Last year, Howard was great and ranked as the 2nd-best CB in the NFL by PFF. When healthy, he’s been a top-20 cornerback since 2018.

The Vikings would have to decide if Howard’s drop in play this season is because of his trade request. They’d also have to be confident he could return to his former DPOY candidate self to pull the trigger. Howard is under contract through 2024 with a massive cap hit around $14 million per season. Both Zimmer and Spielman would have to really like him to make the move.

Option #2 – Depth Move

The other option for the Minnesota Vikings would be to add more depth at cornerback, instead of swinging for a top guy. This is the more likely route Spielman will travel and Bleacher Report recently offered up Houston Texans CB, Vernon Hargreaves III as a guy the Vikings could target.

Hargreaves wouldn’t make the impact of a Howard but he would provide stability and injury insurance should anything else happen to the Minnesota secondary. He wouldn’t do anything to raise the ceiling of the Vikings but he’d certainly raise the floor.

PFF ranks Hargreaves as the 62nd-best CB out of 118 who are eligible and he’d probably come cheap (late-round draft pick).

Do Something

If the Minnesota Vikings are truly serious about contending for a playoff spot at the end of this season, they’ll make a move for another cornerback. It’s the most obvious position of need and Zimmer has probably been bugging Spielman about that since Peterson went to IR.

With a QB gauntlet they’re about to face, they should make a move sooner, rather than later.

Cooper Carlson | Minnesota Sports Fan