The Vikings' defensive transformation will happen without a team captain.
Cornerback Patrick Peterson agreed to terms on a contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday afternoon, he announced on his podcast "All Things Covered," just hours into the NFL's two-day window for free agents to negotiate with other teams before the 2023 league year begins Wednesday. New deals can't be signed until Wednesday afternoon.
Another stable part of the Vikings' 31st-ranked defense, defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson, is headed to the AFC North, too. Tomlinson, who agreed to push back a void date in his contract to prolong extension talks with the Vikings, reportedly agreed to a four-year deal worth $57 million with the Browns on Monday night.
Peterson, the former All-Pro selection, said Monday that the Vikings were one of the teams calling his agent, but he chose the Steelers' two-year, $14 million offer. Peterson said he spoke to Vikings brass before making his final decision.
"We wasn't able to cross that line with [Minnesota]," Peterson said.
Peterson characterized negotiations with the Vikings as "adult men business and how it was supposed to be" after his rocky breakup with former Cardinals general manager Steve Keim.
"It wasn't curveballs," Peterson said. "It was how it was supposed to be, and I can't do nothing but appreciate that."
Peterson, who started 31 of 35 possible games for the Vikings over two seasons, said he had the "time of my life" in Minnesota following a 10-year run in Arizona. He envisions ending his career in Pittsburgh with two more years, which would be his 13th and 14th NFL seasons. Peterson turns 33 in July.
Contractual differences led him to Pittsburgh, where he said he also wants to compete for a Super Bowl. He pointed to Steelers coach Mike Tomlin's two appearances. Peterson said he hasn't yet spoken with Steelers coaches about how they plan to use him. But he said he liked what he's seen from Tomlin defenses and their secondaries.
"A guy that can be implemented into the game plan," Peterson said. "Not being a guy that's just lining up on one side of the field, being able to mix and match me in different positions. I hope that's in coach's plans."
Peterson is the latest defender to depart Minnesota after the front office released linebacker Eric Kendricks and cornerback Cameron Dantzler last week. On Monday, Kendricks announced his plans to join the Chargers, and the Commanders claimed Dantzler off waivers.
Peterson arrived to the Vikings in 2021 as a proven veteran joining a secondary desperate for stability. While Peterson's production, across two different defenses under former head coach Mike Zimmer and former defensive coordinator Ed Donatell, did not suffer, the defensive struggles remained a reason why they could not contend for a title.
His exit leaves a leadership and production void at cornerback for new defensive coordinator Brian Flores. Peterson was lauded by teammates for his role as a mentor. The Vikings will have to add veteran pieces, and possibly draft picks, to a group that currently has only Andrew Booth Jr., Akayleb Evans, Kalon Barnes and Tay Gowan under contract for next season.
Cornerbacks Duke Shelley, Chandon Sullivan, and Kris Boyd are pending free agents, like Peterson, and can negotiate with other teams.
Possible free-agent cornerback fits for the Vikings could include the Buccaneers' Sean Murphy-Bunting, the Cardinals' Byron Murphy and the 49ers' Emmanuel Moseley.