The Minnesota Vikings have been in desperate need of help at the cornerback position heading into the 2020 season.
With Xavier Rhodes being released (and signing in Indianapolis), the Vikings lost two more starters when Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander signed with the Cincinnati Bengals in free agency.
While the Vikings addressed the need by drafting Jeff Gladney, Cameron Dantzler, and Harrison Hand, they could still use a veteran presence, which could lead their search back to Cincinnati and Dre Kirkpatrick.
Is Kirkpatrick already a Viking?
The rumors between Kirkpatrick and the Vikings were already there after the Alabama product broke into the league while Mike Zimmer was the Bengals defensive coordinator in 2012 until he left for Minnesota in 2014.
That relationship would make a teacher/student reunion make sense as the Bengals released Kirkpatrick after eight seasons and five as a starter. But the Vikings haven't pulled the trigger yet...or have they?
Kirkpatrick's Wikipedia page was edited this past week to say that he has already signed with the Vikings, but that was cleared up quickly since Wikipedia is a user-generated site and anyone can post anything.
But a smaller fan blog site known as Essentially Sports also stirred the pot, listing Kirkpatrick as a Viking in a headline for a story speaking out on the riots in response to the death of George Floyd.
The Vikings have not officially "roped in" Kirkpatrick as of yet, but it's gotten many wondering if Kirkpatrick could eventually wind up in purple and gold.
What can Kirkpatrick bring to the table?
On paper, Kirkpatrick is a player that fits the mold of what Zimmer wants in a cornerback. The 30-year-old stands at 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds, but his 4.51 second time in the 40-yard dash coming out of Alabama is a little slower than what they like to see (especially for a guy with eight years under his belt in the league).
An idea to mask that deficiency could be to stick him in the slot to help cover the loss of Alexander, but even that's not a given. Kirkpatrick played 68 snaps in the slot during his rookie year in 2013 per Pro Football Focus and 33 the following season but hasn't become a regular at that position.
With that in mind, it's hard to see how that would be an upgrade over Mike Hughes, who played 103 snaps in the slot last season but is recovering from a neck injury. Gladney also has the measurements to play the position but needs time to learn how to play in the slot, something that took Alexander a couple of years to master.
On top of this, Kirkpatrick wasn't good for the Bengals last season. His 126.5 passer rating allowed when targeted was 10th in the NFL last season and was right behind Rhodes, who allowed a 127.8 rating when targeted. In addition, his 1.50 yards allowed per coverage snap was identical to Rhodes.
Mix in a knee injury that ended his 2019 season after Week 6 and there's a reason Kirkpatrick is still on the market.
Should the Vikings be interested?
After looking at this, why would the Vikings want to get rid of Rhodes and then bring in Kirkpatrick, who was equally as bad last year? It would depend on Zimmer's preference for familiarity.
Zimmer knows Kirkpatrick from his time in Cincinnati and if he feels it might take more time for his rookies to acclimate to the NFL, Kirkpatrick could be a veteran presence to lean on during training camp and potentially the early part of the 2020 season.
In addition, the elder statesman of the Vikings' cornerback room is Hughes, who has just five career starts at age 25. By comparison, Kirkpatrick has 67 and can be a reference to the younger players.
Perhaps the most appealing factor about bringing Kirkpatrick in would be his cost. While Rhodes was due to make $12.9 million this season, it's possible the Vikings could get Kirkpatrick for the veteran's minimum of $1.05 million.
If the Vikings are looking for someone to lock down the starting cornerback spot in 2020, they should probably look to their rookies and take the growing pains that come with it. If they want to add another coach on the field ala Terence Newman, it might be worth giving Kirkpatrick a call.