The Vikings have made so many free agent signings on the defensive side of the ball — from early splashes on Dalvin Tomlinson and Patrick Peterson to bringing back Stephen Weatherly and Mackensie Alexander to, most recently, landing Bashaud Breeland and Sheldon Richardson — that it feels like the addition of former Cowboys safety Xavier Woods has flown under the radar a bit.
Part of that can also likely be attributed to the fact that Woods is coming off the worst season of his four-year NFL career, which resulted in the Vikings being able to land him for just $1.75 million on a one-year deal. But Woods, at least for the first three years of his career, was a very solid starting safety, recording five interceptions, 17 passes defended, and three forced fumbles during that span. The 2017 sixth-round pick out of Louisiana Tech never had a PFF grade below 70 until last season. That version of him would be a sizable upgrade from Anthony Harris's performance last season opposite Harrison Smith.
So far, it sounds like Woods is fitting in exactly how the Vikings hoped he would. He's drawn high praise from both Mike Zimmer and Peterson so far for his play during OTAs and minicamp.
"I’ve been really impressed with him up to this point," Zimmer said. "Those two guys [Woods and Smith] working together have done a really good job."
Peterson singled out Woods as someone who has stood out to him when asked by Bryant McFadden, the co-host of his podcast All Things Covered.
"He's been really good for us, man," Peterson said. "Just a seasoned vet. Always going to be where he needs to be, going to make the right checks, make the right calls. Just a smooth criminal. I call him 'Daddy Smoove.' He doesn't say many words, but when he's out there, he's always where he needs to be."
Woods may have suffered from the same problem that affected Harris in 2020: being dragged down by a defense that was lacking in overall talent. Now he's playing on a defense that has two potential future Hall of Famers in the secondary, several other solid corners, an All-Pro linebacker, and a loaded defensive line. That's a great environment for Woods to not only bounce back, but possibly have his best season yet in the NFL.
All he needs to do is be on the same page with everyone else and consistently be in the right place at the right time, which it sounds like he's succeeding with so far. From there, Woods' ball skills and general playmaking ability should shine.
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