Following a season where the Vikings fielded a defense that Mike Zimmer called "the worst one I've ever had," they've spent much of their time in free agency addressing a position group the coach considers his pride and joy.
The team is signing former Cowboys safety Xavier Woods to a one-year deal, a source confirmed on Saturday afternoon. The one-year deal, worth $1.75 million with up to $500,000 in incentives, figures to place Woods in line to replace Anthony Harris, who signed a one-year deal with the Eagles last week. Woods and Mackensie Alexander — who agreed to a one-year deal on Friday night to return to the Vikings — are expected to take physicals at the Vikings' practice facility on Monday. Both players' deals would become official if they pass their physicals.
Woods, a sixth-round pick in Dallas in 2017, played for new Vikings defensive backs coach Karl Scott at Louisiana Tech in 2015, creating a connection to bring the safety to Minnesota. He'd established himself as a solid coverage safety in 2018 and 2019 before struggling last year, when he gave up four touchdowns and allowed quarterbacks to post a 129.0 passer rating when targeting him, according to Pro Football Focus.
He joins Alexander and Patrick Peterson as new additions to a Vikings secondary that struggled under the weight of inexperience in 2020, when rookies Cameron Dantzler and Jeff Gladney played more snaps than any first-year defensive backs had in Minnesota under Zimmer. The Vikings are still optimistic about the progression of both players, but they saw how much a lack of depth could affect them last year, when Mike Hughes played in only four games because of a neck injury and Dantzler missed five games.
The lack of experience among the corners seemed to affect Harrison Smith and Harris, as well, and Woods comes to Minnesota as part of a secondary group that should have more experience than it did a year ago. It should also have more competition, with players such as Peterson and Alexander challenging Hughes for a role in the defense, as the 2018 first-round pick plays on the final year of a rookie deal that will count for $3.139 million against the cap.