They have a Pro Bowl-caliber safety in Harrison Smith, but the spot alongside him on the back end of the secondary has been a weakness for the Minnesota Vikings. No greater evidence exists for that than the fact Andrew Sendejo has started double-digit games in two of the last three seasons, including all 13 games he played last season.
At last week’s NFL Combine, Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer acknowledged the need to find the “right” safety to pair with Smith. That seemed to be a clear indication that Sendejo and fellow in-house free agent Robert Blanton were not viewed that way, and rightfully so. But a curveball came on Saturday, with news the Viking have re-signed Sendejo to what looks like a pretty lucrative contract.
It’s actually $16M over 4 years for #Vikings & S Andrew Sendejo. They were in safety market, linked to Iloka, others. Does this change that?
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 5, 2016
Pro Football Focus graded Sendejo as the fourth-worst safety in the league last season, while Smith was the site’s top-ranked player at the position. He has been a productive tackler (74 total tackles in 2015), but Sendejo’s fundamental shortcomings in that area come at bad times and typically result in big plays for the opposing offense. Add in a lack of impact plays, with two interceptions, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery over the last three seasons, and the Vikings’ apparent affinity for Sendejo is inexplicable.
Signing Sendejo should not prevent the Vikings from mining the free agent market and the draft for safety help, but the kind of money he is getting suggests he’s viewed as more than a fallback option. Darren Wolfson of KSTP-TV has offered that Sendejo’s new deal could be incentive-laden, but anything too far beyond the veteran’s minimum in base salary is a gross overpay by the Vikings.
Letting Sendejo explore the free agent market would have been fine, and at this point it feels like the Vikings overpaid to retain a limited player who should primarily be playing special teams. As fallback options to start alongside Smith go, and even with his new salary, the Vikings have better in-house choices than Sendejo.