The Roster Bubble
As rookies prepare to enter camp, it is always interesting to see which young guys can make enough plays to stand out, and which youngsters fizzle out because of mistakes and poor judgment. Unfortunately, we are only about six weeks away from preseason football and about two months away from having to trim to a 53-man roster and that window will, sadly, be the bulk of their professional football careers. Some of these guys will cling on to practice squad spots but a majority of them will see their time end come September. However, a few select players will show enough determination, grit, and potential to make an active roster. Which players are on the roster bubble? Let’s dive in and take a look at one potential name to know.
Kalon Barnes – Player Profile
Kalon Barnes is a second-year cornerback who Minnesota picked up from Miami practice squad back in December of last year. Coming into the league, it was a longshot for Barnes to make a roster. He played his college ball with the Baylor Bears (recruited at receiver and then transitioning to corner). That said, for a four-year player, his college repertoire is a little shaky. His best season came in 2019 when he played every game but from there, he only had 14 games across the next two seasons. His legacy in college ended with 53 tackles, 16 assists, 2.5 tackles for loss, 3 interceptions, 17 passes defended, and a forced fumble. In the draft process, Barnes tested well, and the Carolina Panthers drafted the Baylor Bear in the 2022 NFL Draft with the 242nd overall pick. However, they cut Barnes before the regular season and didn’t sign him to their practice squad. Insert Miami, who did bring him in to their practice squad before Minnesota ultimately brought him North.
What sticks out then with Barnes? His athleticism. Barnes recorded the second fastest 40-yard dash time at the combine since they started timing it electronically. The 6‘0“ prospect actually was a track star in high school and that shows on the field. Barnes plays with passion, even if fundamentally at his position he leaves a lot to be desired. Barnes is a natural athlete and has plus size and reach project him to play as a perimeter corner who also has the versatility to play the nickel. His ability to high point the ball and play bigger than he is jumps off his tape. He can easily line up against bigger receivers and his physicality is on display at the line of scrimmage (though he does get burned because of this). Far too often, Barnes had a bad break or got beat deep and had to recover. Granted, his recovery speed and ability are solid, but that tendency is not ideal and needs to be cleaned up. As a run defender, Barnes has a solid foundational base but could continue to develop as a tackler. As a whole, there’s a lot to like, but Barnes will need to stay healthy to stay on the field. The former Bear’s best chance to catch on in the league right now is as a depth piece.
Can Kalon Barnes survive the roster bubble? I believe so for two reasons: The potential and the need. Minnesota is in a bit of a rebranding, but they still like and plan to stay competitive. Yes, it is slightly odd for a 13-win team to ship off a variety of veterans, and bring in a healthy chunk of new starters but the Purple and Gold are getting younger, cheaper, and faster. Barnes fits that perfectly and because of this has a solid chance to make the active roster. As a whole, he will have him time to develop and learn. Though the Vikings have a need at corner, Barnes as a player doesn’t have the expectation to be a starter. Simply, if Barnes can show he’s teachable and that he can contribute on special teams, he has a real shot. His best route to a roster is to slot in as a fifth or sixth cornerback and key special teams’ ace. Barnes comps really well to a more athletic Nik Needham, who went undrafted in 2019 but found great development and a consistent role with Flores. The opportunity is there, and hopefully Barnes is playing Minnesota football come September.
Projection: 53 Man Roster, Special Teams Contributor, and Nickel Defense Sub
- Projected Stat Line: 24 Tackles, 4 assists, 3 tackles for loss, 1 interception, 5 passes defended