With the Vikings ensuring that Charles Gordon and Benny Sapp will be back in 2008 by signing them to one year deals, the team will face a major crossroads next offseason. Their top four cornerbacks will all be eligible to become free agents after the 2009 season.
Antoine Winfield will turn 32 years old in June. He’s coming of a much deserved Pro Bowl year in which he registered 95 tackles, two sacks, two interceptions, 11 passes defended, four forced fumbles, numerous special teams plays, and two touchdowns. However, the Vikings had no problem casting off Matt Birk and Darren Sharper because of their age, and barring another outstanding season from Winfield it would be surprising to see Winfield in purple after this season.
Cedric Griffen has had a roller-coaster type career thus far. He really came on strong in the second half of the 2008 season, which was punctuated by making an acrobatic interception while covering Kevin Curtis in the Vikings playoff game against the Eagles. He’s 26 years old, but his inconsistent play has to leave fans wondering if he’ll be offered a contract extension.
Charles Gordon was a budding star in the Vikings defensive backfield when a gruesome injury to his ankle ended his season prematurely. Gordon has been solid as the Vikings nickel back and filling in when injuries are suffered by the starters. He will need to prove throughout training camp and the 2009 season that his injury will not keep him from being productive. Again, the Vikings will face a choice after this season on whether or not to extend Gordon’s tenure with the team.
Benny Sapp was also recently re-signed to a one year contract. Sapp is only 5’ 9” but makes up for his small frame with a great ability to crash towards the ball and he constantly takes risks in an effort to make the big play. His risks have gotten him burned on a few occasions, but he recognized that and seemed to improve his play as the season went on. However, Sapp does not have the measure ables that teams desire from their cornerbacks and, again, the Vikings will face a decision on whether or not to keep Sapp around.
In addition to the guys already mentioned Marcus McCauley, Marcus Walker, and Derrick Roberson are all on the current roster. It is questionable whether or not they will make the 53-man roster, however.
Many fans were confused as to why the Vikings didn’t address the cornerback need (or any other need for the matter) in the first days of free agency. With guys like Leigh Bodden, Kelvin Hayden, Dominique Foxworth and many others available I too was surprised that they didn’t even set up any visits. It is possible, if not likely, that they will target a cornerback on day one of this April’s draft. If they don’t then it is conceivable that the 2010 Vikings will have no familiar cornerbacks on the roster.