Former Vikings Cornerback Trae Waynes Signed By Bengals in Free Agency

Will Ragatz

Former Vikings cornerback Trae Waynes has signed with the Cincinnati Bengals in free agency, according to Ian Rapaport and Tom Pelissero of NFL Network.

Waynes' new deal with the Bengals is for three years and $42 million, per KSTP's Darren Wolfson. Tuesday has been a big day for the Bengals and defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo, as they also signed defensive tackle D.J. Reader to a big-time deal (four years, $53 million). The pair of moves should help Cincinnati improve a defense that ranked 30th in DVOA and 29th in yards per game allowed in 2019.

For the Vikings, this is their first major domino to fall in free agency. Entering the offseason, the Vikings faced the prospect of losing up to four of their top five defensive backs. Now two of those four – starting outside cornerbacks Waynes and Xavier Rhodes, who was recently released – are moving on.

In a surprising move, the Vikings used the franchise tag on star safety Anthony Harris on Monday, but are reportedly open to trading him for a mid-to-late round pick. If Harris is traded, the Vikings might look to re-sign slot corner Mackensie Alexander with the resulting cap space. If Alexander also departs, Harrison Smith would be the only returning starter in the Vikings' secondary.

Waynes was the Vikings' first-round pick in 2015, as they selected him No. 11 overall out of Michigan State. His 4.31-second 40-yard dash is tied for sixth-best among corners since 2006, which helped him become an early first-round pick.

After playing sparingly as a rookie, Waynes started eight games in 2016 and posted a career-high three interceptions. He became a full-time starter opposite Rhodes in 2017, helping lead the Vikings to a 13-3 season and an appearance in the NFC Championship game. Waynes remained a key piece of Mike Zimmer's defense over the last two years, missing just a handful of games. But the Vikings, who exercised his fifth-year option prior to the 2018 season, never worked with him on a long-term extension.

During his time in Minnesota, Waynes was the definition of a solid, consistent, above-average cornerback, recording a Pro Football Focus grade between 63.4 and 69.1 in each of his five years. He finishes his Vikings career with 247 tackles, 42 passes defended, and seven interceptions.

Waynes, who turns 28 in July, will replace former MSU teammate Darqueze Dennard in the Bengals' secondary. Dennard signed with the Jaguars on Tuesday.

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