Seattle Seahawks cornerback Tramaine Brock (5) defends as Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Rodney Adams, right, makes a low catch in the second half of an NFL football preseason game, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)
After checking into the possibility of signing former Gophers cornerback Tramaine Brock last month, the Vikings wound up watching Brock sign with the Seattle Seahawks.
On Friday, they swung a deal to bring Brock to Minnesota, after all.
According to a NFL source, the Vikings sent a 7th-round pick to Seattle for Brock, who had signed a one-year, $980,000 deal with the Seahawks last month. The 49ers had released him after he was arrested on suspicion of domestic violence in April, but Brock signed with the Seahawks after the case was dismissed last month.
He started 31 of the 49ers’ last 32 regular-season games, and intercepted a career-high five passes back in 2013. Pro Football Focus ranked Brock the 24th-best cover corner in the league last season.
Now that they’ve traded for him, the Vikings have two questions to answer: Where will Brock play, and what will the rest of their cornerback group look like?
The immediate spot for Brock would seem to be nickel corner, where the team is still trying to figure out if Mackensie Alexander is ready to handle the position consistently. The last time the Vikings turned the nickel job over to a second-year corner, it backfired badly, with Josh Robinson’s struggles catalyzing the team’s defensive meltdown in 2013. That led to the Vikings signing Captain Munnerlyn in 2014, and after three years of a veteran at the nickel spot, the Vikings undoubtedly know the value of having a player they can count on in the slot. If Alexander doesn’t turn out to be that player, it’s prudent to have another option (Terence Newman could play there, too, but he could be the Vikings’ first choice in a pinch at a number of spots in the secondary).
The 5-foot-10 Brock has also played plenty of outside corner in the NFL, and the Vikings could use him there if Trae Waynes runs into trouble during his first season as a starter. At the very least, he creates some competition for both of the young corners the Vikings are trying to bring along this year.
Now for the roster makeup: Brock’s addition to the final 53-man roster means there are six corners who are virtual locks: Rhodes, Alexander, Waynes, Brock, Newman and Marcus Sherels. If that’s the case, the Vikings might need to create a roster spot somewhere else.
Apart from Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks, they’ve got five linebackers who could make the team (Ben Gedeon, Edmond Robinson, Emmanuel Lamur, Kentrell Brothers and possibly Eric Wilson), so they could make some moves to clear space at that position. Wide receiver is also a spot to watch; the Vikings will bring Michael Floyd back from suspension in four weeks, and could opt to stick with five receivers, instead of six, until that point. That could leave a rookie like Rodney Adams or Stacy Coley, or a veteran like Jarius Wright, on the outs. If the Vikings decided to keep all three, they might have to decide whether they can get by with two tight ends, or part with one of their young safeties.
The tricky thing for the Vikings on Saturday will be making decisions on the bottom of the roster when they’ve had a number of players do enough to make strong bids for a spot on the 53-man squad. Undrafted free agents like Wilson and Tashawn Bower, and late-round picks like Coley and Danny Isidora, have been particularly impressive, meaning the Vikings might have trouble getting any of those players through waivers. Brock’s addition only makes the puzzle even more intricate.
We’ll have answers to the roster construction questions by this time tomorrow night, while the playing time questions will take a little longer to resolve. In any case, the Vikings made a low-risk move to add some depth to their secondary at a time where they could use it.