By the time the 2015 season is over, Harrison Smith might be considered the best free safety in the NFL. He and cornerback Xavier Rhodes are cornerstone players in the Vikings' secondary – and rookie cornerback Trae Waynes appears to be another.
Unfortunately, Minnesota doesn't have a cornerstone name at strong safety; which is why head coach Mike Zimmer plans to have an "open competition" for the job, the Star Tribune reports.
The position battle includes:
- Robert Blanton – started 13 games last season
- Andrew Sendejo – replaced Blanton in Week 14
- Antone Exum – barely touched the field as a rookie in 2014
- Taylor Mays – free-agent signee from Cincinnati
- Anthony Harris – undrafted rookie from Virginia
Harris, the Star Tribune notes, didn't participate in rookie mini-camp last week because he's only five months removed from major shoulder surgery. But the skinny on Harris is that he can intercept passes, and he "has a lot of the traits of the starting safeties in this league," General Manager Rick Spielman has said.
Mays is a hard-hitting safety probably better known for some brilliant play while at the University of Southern California. He's been a backup for the Bengals in the NFL, and Rant Sports anticipates he'll provide depth to the secondary more than anything else.
Exum was a sixth-round pick in 2014 and Spielman thinks he's a "talented athlete" that they're going to keep a close eye on.
Drafted as a cornerback, the Vikings converted Exum to safety during his rookie campaign, the Pioneer Press reports.
"I take pride in work ethic and not being outworked, and this offseason I've been attacking," Exum told the newspaper.
The open competition will begin when the Vikings begin Organized Team Activities later this month.