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Roster breakdown: Assessing the Minnesota Vikings’ safeties

Minnesota Vikings fantasy football targets

This week, the focus in the football world was on the NFL scouting combine. However, the 2018 free agency period is quickly approaching. So far, we have broken down every position of the Minnesota Vikings’ roster except for one, the safety position.

Having a solid safety in the defensive backfield is vital in today’s NFL. Fortunately for the Vikings, they have two. Both Harrison Smith and Andrew Sendejo exceeded all expectations in 2017, leading Minnesota to a 13-3 record.

In our final roster breakdown before free agency, let’s take a closer look at the Minnesota Vikings’ safeties.

Harrison Smith

Minnesota Vikings' safeties
Harrison Smith (22) returns an interception for a touchdown during the 2017 Pro Bowl in Orlando. (Photo by AP Photo/Phelan M Ebenhack)

Harrison Smith has been a Pro-Bowl caliber safety for several years and is widely considered to be the league’s best at his position. Smith’s versatility allows him to be effective in run defense, pass rushing and in coverage. This flexibility allows him to thrive in coach Mike Zimmer’s defense.

In 2017, Smith was selected to his third straight Pro Bowl and was given first team All-Pro honors. He was also ranked as the third best player in the NFL regardless of position by Pro Football Focus. After the 2016 season, the Vikings rewarded Smith with a five-year, $51.25 million contract extension, keeping him signed through 2021.

On a stacked defense, Smith stands out as the team’s best player and looks to lead his team to another playoff run in 2018.

Andrew Sendejo

After some struggles against coverage early in his career, Andrew Sendejo performed extremely well in 2017.

Last season, Sendejo lined up as a strong safety to form a formidable 1-2 punch with All-Pro Harrison Smith. Although he doesn’t have the same ball skills and speed as Smith, Sendejo is a solid tackler and does a good job of playing downhill.

Sendejo has proven himself as a talented player in Mike Zimmer’s defense despite giving up the occasional deep pass. In 2016, Sendejo signed a then-questionable contract extension (four years, $16 million). So far, he has vastly overperformed.

Barring a contract holdout, Sendejo will be a very affordable strong safety for the Vikings until 2020.

Notable backups

Minnesota Vikings safeties
Minnesota Vikings strong safety Anthony Harris, (left) strips the ball from Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp. (Photo by AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)

Strong safety Anthony Harris typically does not see the field often with Sendejo ahead of him on the depth chart. However, injuries allowed Harris to start a handful of games late in the 2017 season.

Harris filled in admirably in Sendejo’s absence, racking up 12 tackles in his three starts. He is due to become a restricted free agent this offseason, so it is uncertain if Harris will return to the Vikings.

Jayron Kearse is the only other safety on the Vikings’ roster with playing experience. The Vikings drafted Kearse in 2016 in the seventh round and has seen limited action. He is currently under contract until 2020.

What to expect

The Minnesota Vikings’ safeties are some of the best in the NFL. In addition, both of their starters are under contract for the next two years. Unless backup Anthony Harris leaves in free agency, it would be shocking if the Vikings made any moves at the safety position. Of all the needs the Vikings must fill this offseason, the safety position is dead last.

 

Featured image by Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

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