Get to know new Vikings cornerback Patrick Peterson

The Minnesota Vikings haven’t been massive spenders in free agency — the club doesn’t have the means to be, anyhow — but still made a splash acquiring a couple of prominent names at key positions on defense.

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One in particular, former Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson, has the chops to contribute immediately, the experience to elevate a position group that has fallen by the wayside since ranking near the tops of the league in major statistical categories in 2018 and the leadership qualities currently absent that will ensure ascending players realize their potential.

Peterson has been called many things throughout his football career: A bona fide superstar. A perennial Pro Bowl player. A future Hall of Famer. And most recently, a liability past his prime, something he assures he’s not.

Who then, exactly, is the seasoned vet from out west most commonly known by his Twitter moniker @P2?

Let’s find out.

 

COLLEGE

Once a two-way standout who played running back and defensive back at Blanche Ely High School in Pompano Beach, Fla. — known then as Patrick Johnson — Peterson blossomed from fifth-overall recruit in the country to one of the brightest defensive stars college football has seen over the last two decades during his three-year stay at LSU from 2008-10.

As a Tiger, Peterson played almost exclusively on the defensive side of the ball and made major contributions as a return specialist during his junior — and what would be his final — season at the college level.

Before departing as an underclassman for the 2011 NFL draft, Peterson was honored with numerous distinctions for his performance as a lockdown corner on an 11-2 football team that finished the year ranked eighth in the country. He was widely recognized as college football’s premier defender, and as such received consensus All-America recognition, in addition to being named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year and winner of the Chuck Bednarik and Jim Thorpe Awards, recognizing college football’s most outstanding defensive player and most outstanding defensive back.

Career Totals at LSU: 104 solo tackles; 7 interceptions; 29.1 yards per kick return; 15.7 yards per punt return; 2 defensive touchdowns; 2 special teams touchdowns

 

PRO CAREER 

Selected in the first round (No. 5 overall) of the 2011 draft by Arizona, Peterson embarked on a remarkable 10-year run with the Cardinals that was highlighted by eight Pro Bowl selections and three first-team All-Pro nods. Furthermore, he was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame All-2010s team for his dominance and electric execution as Arizona’s undisputed top playmaker on defense.

Perhaps best remembered in the desert for a truly historic rookie season, featuring four punt return touchdowns and multiple interceptions, Peterson never again reached as high of an approximate value (20), as denoted by pro-football-reference.com, in a Cardinals uniform, but has managed to steer quarterbacks away from his coverage for as long of a stretch as any of the NFL’s active veteran defensive backs. He ranks tied for third in interceptions (28) since entering the league and has started all 16 games in nine of 10 seasons, only missing time due to a six-game suspension in 2019 for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy. His career 91.9 grade in zone coverage is tied for third best since 2011, per Pro Football Focus.

Although in certain situations Peterson appeared to have lost a step during the Cardinals’ 2020 campaign, he insists that he has plenty left in his tank. According to PFF, he posted his worst coverage grade (53.1) since his rookie year, while pacing all defensive backs with 10 penalties. He also allowed a passer rating over 100 in back-to-back seasons. It’s not to say, however, that he’s incapable of still making a striking impact as a cover corner in the right environment. Peterson got his hands on more footballs last season — he logged three interceptions and eight passes defended — than he has at any juncture since 2013. Notably, he emphasized Vikings coach Mike Zimmer’s history of working with older defensive backs like Deion Sanders and Terence Newman, players known for their longevity, as a strong selling point that helped lure Peterson to the Twin Cities.

Career Totals in the NFL:  154 games / 154 starts; 447 solo tackles; 28 interceptions; 1 defensive touchdown; 4 special teams touchdowns

 

CURRENT CONTRACT

Peterson inked his one-year $8 million contract with the purple-and-gold last Monday, likely banking on an extension or more long-term interest from competition as a result of improved performance this upcoming season.

He collected a $5.9 million dollar signing bonus and will earn a base salary of $2.1 million in 2021 before becoming an unrestricted free agent during the 2022 offseason. He reportedly can earn up to $2 million more in incentives.

Compared to other cornerbacks aged 29-or-older that agreed to a deal with a new team off the market this year, Peterson’s cost is a bit more expensive — granted his track record and proven abilities could easily have influenced a higher bargaining price.

The tradeoff is exactly that: Minnesota utilizes a good chunk of its available salary cap space in order to bring in an established veteran presence who is capable of mentoring a relatively young secondary, and hopefully, create an uptick in takeaways and downturn in mental lapses.

 

PERSONAL 

Peterson was born July 11, 1990 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He is the son of Patrick Peterson Sr., whose own promising football career was upended by heart murmurs diagnosed before the start of his final prep season.

Fun Fact: Peterson Jr. went by his mother’s maiden name (Johnson) until formally changing it to pay homage to his father as a freshman at LSU. He grew up reading newspaper clippings of his old man’s feats on the gridiron.

Peterson’s younger brother, Avery, was an Under Armour All-American game selection in 2012 and went on to spend two seasons at his older brother’s alma mater before transferring to play wide receiver at Cincinnati.

Fun Fact: Peterson was accompanied by a starting quarterback with a last name that ought to be familiar to Vikings fans — Jefferson — during his three years at LSU. During Peterson’s sophomore and junior seasons, Jordan Jefferson, the older brother of Minnesota receiver Justin, served as the Tigers starting quarterback. Peterson befriended the future national champion and Vikings first-round draft choice in 2020 back in his own Baton Rouge heyday.

Peterson shared he had type 2 diabetes during the 2015 offseason. He attributed a slow start to his 2014 campaign to blood sugar issues and difficulties managing his weight. He ended the 2014 season by making a fourth straight Pro Bowl appearance and entered the 2015 season saying he tamed the disease.

Fun Fact: Peterson’s wife, Antonique, pulls triple-duty as a mother, significant other and real-life hero. Last summer she battled, like so many other medical personnel, the COVID-19 pandemic from the frontlines in her second year of a family medicine residency at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix, Ariz.

Peterson has been fairly active in his community throughout his professional career. He formed the Patrick Peterson Foundation For Success in 2012, aiming to provide low-income and inner city youth opportunities to change the trajectory of their lives and attain their goals. He helped distribute meals recreated from some of his favorite recipes to residents staying at a shelter in Phoenix this past fall on what became known as “P2 Tuesdays.”

Fun Fact: Peterson was twice selected as the Arizona Cardinals’ nomination for the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year Award (2015, 2017).

Peterson hosts his own podcast called “All Things Covered” alongside his cousin and former Pittsburgh Steelers defensive back Bryant McFadden. The show airs every Wednesday on YouTube and all podcast platforms and focuses on popular culture, sports topics, social issues and personal interests.

Fun Fact: Guests on Peterson’s podcast have ranged from the likes of all-time great NFL athlete Mel Blount, to legendary college football coach Nick Saban, outspoken basketball father LaVar Ball and iconic American rapper Master P.