Friday, February 13, 2009

Cornerbacks and The Window

As I've been saying, the Vikings need to do everything they can to win now, because while they have Super Bowl caliber players throughout their roster, they won't have them for long. Their window of opportunity is starting to close.

Now, I know that the Vikings have a host of young stars--Visanthe Shaincoe, Kevin Williams, E.J. Henderson and Bernard Berrian turn 29 this season, Madieu Williams turns 28, and Jared Allen, Adrian Peterson, Chad Greenway and Brian Robison are all going to be 27 or younger. The Purple's roster has a young core that is supremely talented.

Here's the thing though--it's not enough to just have a good core if you want to win the Super Bowl. You need to have depth and you need to be very good at almost every position. And there are some key positions that the Vikings are not going to be good enough at if they don't act this off season, specifically cornerback. First off, if nothing is done between now and the beginning of free agency next year, the Vikings are going to lose both Cedric Griffin and Antoine Winfield, since both are unrestricted free agents after this year.

Secondly, while Antoine Winfield's play was clearly good enough to get him into the Pro Bowl this year, he's also turning 32 this year. While he might be the type of player that can continue to play at a high level into his thirties, he might not be, which means that committing to him long term at 33 years old is risky, especially if the Vikings are going to be counting on him to be their top corner.

Finally, I'm not even sure that losing Cedric Griffin is that big of a deal. While he played well in spurts this year, he hasn't shown that he can be counted on as the Vikings' second corner, let alone their top corner. In fact, I'd be a lot happier with the secondary if he was the nickleback, instead of a starter.

Luckily for the Purple, there are some options out there. There are two top corners who are unrestricted free agents: Nnamdi Asomugha of the Raiders, who is generally considered the best cornerback (if not the best defensive player) in the NFL and Dunta Robinson, of the Texans, who returned from knee and hamstring injuries five games into last year and proved that he was still an elite cornerback. Of course, both Asomugha and Robinson are likely to remain with their teams, with the Raiders franchising Asomugha (what, you think he'd resign with them? He's not stupid) and Robinson either signing a long term deal or getting franchised. If either of them makes it through to the free agency period, the Vikings should do what they can to bring in a young shutdown corner to pair with Winfield next year and take over from him as he gets older.

If not, they'll be in a good position to pick up a corner in the first round of the draft. D.J. Moore of Vanderbilt, Vontae Davis of Illinois and Sean Smith of Utah all look like they might be available to the Purple with their 22nd pick (and I'll be previewing all three of them in the run up to the draft). We saw what a rookie corner can do this year, as Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Mike Jenkins, Antoine Cason and Aqib Talib all contributed to their teams after being picked in the first round last year. The right choice could provide the Vikings' with a shut down corner for years to come.

But no matter how they do it, the Vikings need to bring in a quality cornerback this off season, because if they don't, they'll be forced to scramble next off season to replace or resign their starters, and if they fail, they'll have allowed their young star's window of opportunity to shut through their inaction.

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