Last week the Minnesota Vikings grabbed one of the best bargains on the market when they signed wide receiver Kendall Wright to a one-year, $1 million contract. If the Vikings are still shopping, free agency still has some deals available, especially at the safety position.
With around $18 million in cap space remaining, the Vikings could afford to add a safety to provide extra depth in their secondary. While they should be thrilled with the play of Harrison Smith, Andrew Sendejo and even Anthony Harris last year, GM Rick Spielman has said before that head coach Mike Zimmer’s theory on defensive backs is: You can never have too many.
Adding one more safety, depending on the player, could give the Vikings insurance in case of injury or a situational role player. Here are the five best available and why they could help Zimmer’s defense:
Over the past two seasons, Boston’s coverage numbers are incredible. He allowed 15 catches on 40 throws in his direction with two touchdowns, seven interceptions and a QB rating under 40 allowed. His numbers are skewed from other safeties because he plays a center field role, meaning he’s dropping back in coverage and looking to make plays on deep throws. A quick review of his 2017 season finds that the majority of the INTs were floating overthrows and tips, which might be causing the disparity between his asking price and what teams want to play. Still, with some playmaking ability, Boston could slide into a third down, dime package type role or fill in if Smith or Sendejo had to miss time.
If teams are avoiding Reid because of his connection to Colin Kaepernick, that could provide a great opportunity for the Vikings to scoop up a versatile defensive back. He’s technically a safety, but Reid took 121 snaps in the slot last season and allowed just an 84.4 rating on throws into his coverage. He also played in a hybrid linebacker type role at times. Pro Football Focus notes that Reid played 78.7 percent of his run-defense snaps within eight yards of the line of scrimmage, the 14th-highest percentage among safeties.
The former New Orleans Saint also spent a lot of time playing in the slot – 250 snaps in 2017 to be exact. He ranked fourth by Pro Football Focus in Run Stop Percentage, but struggled in coverage. Over the previous two seasons he’d been graded above average in coverage. Vaccaro isn’t a quality full-time nickel corner or a playmaking safety. He can, however, be effective in run situations or as a fill-in for either a safety or slot corner.
The former Brown, Bronco and Buc didn’t fit in as well as hoped with Tampa Bay last season. At one time, he qualified as one of the best safeties in the league, but the 31-year-old is better suited now for a part-time role. He’s still a strong run stuffer who could enter on third-and-medium type situations or give Smith/Sendejo a rest from time to time.
An ACL injury ended his 2017 season, so it’s difficult to say whether the 31-year-old defensive back can return to form, but prior to his injury Branch was playing exceptionally well for the Cardinals. The veteran safety had the best Run Stop Percentage of any safety on the free agent market and graded as the seventh best cover safety in the NFL by Pro Football Focus.