The rumors around the league are flying before free agency starts, and with backup quarterback Matt Cassel signed, the most obvious positions of need that free agency is well-equipped at addressing are becoming hot commodities to talk about.

The premier cornerback in free agency seems to be Titans cornerback Alterraun Verner, who had an excellent season last year, and has been a very good player since his introduction to the league from UCLA in 2010. In fact, in the last four years, Verner ranks 18th in adjusted yards per attempt given up of all cornerbacks who have had 1000 snaps in that period, and 12th of all CBs who have had 2000 snaps. In the more instructive, yet still flawed, yards-per-attempt given up metric, Verner ranks 7th and 5th of the two groups of CBs.

It remains, no matter how it is sliced, that Verner has been very good on film and in the box score, and his reputation as a physical, hard-nosed corner who helps in the run game can only help him. Given that he’s spent some time (successfully) defending the slot position, his value only increases.

It’s hardly a surprise, but the Minnesota Vikings are interested in him.

The team has spent a little bit of time building a physical secondary, with the additions of Xavier Rhodes and Harrison Smith in recent years underscoring the importance of tough play in their respective positions.

Darren Wolfson of ESPN1500 was the first to report the Vikings official interest in Verner, who current DB coach Jerry Gray had under him in Tennessee. Verner is not expected to make any visits, but is expected to sign a deal very close to the open of free agency on March 11th.

The other teams known to be interested in Verner are the New York Giants, the New York Jets (who just released cornerback Antonio Cromartie), the Detroit Lions and the Pittsburgh Steelers. For fairness’ sake, it should be noted that there are probably a few other teams not known to be interested who are in fact actually interested.

In other free agency news, the Vikings have indicated an interested in a nose tackle after releasing Letroy Guion, and have shown interest in former Buccaneer, Eagle, Panther and Jaguar Derek Landri, as well as versatile defensive lineman Arthur Jones, Chargers nose tackle Cam Thomas, and likely a few more.

Derek Landri has played in one-gap 3-4 and 4-3 schemes, but they’ve almost exclusively been attacking, one-gap type schemes that encourage penetration over control. At some stops, he played a heavy rotation of 1-tech looks (Jaguars, 2012 Eagles, Buccaneers), and at others he played almost exclusively in the 3-tech role (Panthers, 2011 Eagles). In every stop, he did not play an exclusive defensive tackle role. Last year, he sprained his MCL before being cut by the Bucs.

Arthur Jones has played in the Ravens’ hybrid scheme both as a two-gapping defensive end head-up over the tackle and as a one-gapping 3-technique or 1-technique with very few two-gapping 0-technique snaps. The vast majority of his snaps have been in a one-gap role.

Cam Thomas was drafted by the San Diego Chargers in 2010 and in those years didn’t earn a consistent starting role behind Antonio Garay, but has played well above average for a backup nose tackle while playing a fair number of starts in 2013. In his first 2013 start, he grabbed Matt Schaub’s first interception of the Houston QBs short 2013 campaign (batted in the air by Jarret Johnson). In that last year with the Chargers he played all over the interior, taking snaps as a one-gapping 3-tech and 1-tech attacker and a two-gap 5-tech and 0-tech run-stuffer.

Tom Pelissero seems to think that Paul Soliai might be on their shortlist after the brief film session head coach Mike Zimmer hosted with local media. Darren Wolfson said shortly after that the Vikings have in fact contacted him.

Paul Soliai has played as a nose tackle in both one-gap and two-gap schemes, a 4-3 recently with the Dolphins and a 3-4 in Miami before that.

It seems that the general theme of the Vikings interest are in dual-capable players who have played in multiple fronts and gap concepts, something head coach Mike Zimmer hinted at a few months ago when speaking of some of the hybrid schemes the Vikings may employ. Versatility is a key word when tracking the Vikings DT moves, and because coach Zimmer has often expressed a preference for working from the inside out (“enabling the defensive tackles”) it’s a decision the Vikings will not make likely.

The Vikings also are interested in former Ravens linebacker Jameel McClain, who has a visit scheduled with the Vikings. In addition to cornerback Alterraun Verner, the Vikings are taking a look at Nolan Carroll, cornerback of the Miami Dolphins.

28 COMMENTS

  1. Alteraun Verner would be a big splash!

    Big payday for Cassel and E Griffen. Vikings are also flirting with top free agents.

    Am I dreaming? Is this the same Rick Spielman?

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    • I think they are looking at him hard, but it all depends on how high the bidding goes. I have a feeling that is why they pulled out of the Michael Johnson sweepstakes. I think it is the right thing to do since there are so many hole to fill. We shall see and hope for the best.

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  2. The stars in the deep purple sky are beginning to line up for the Vikings… and this new constellation shall be called ZIMMER.

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    • I sure hope you’re right Carl, I don’t know how much more I can take. I do have a good feeling about Zim and the staff he’s put together. Just a few more pieces for the puzzle.

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  3. I foresee no more big spending in free agency. maybe 6-8 million for a DT/NT. the rest I feel we should get lower tier players like o-lineman, cornerback. this way they can still drive to Hyannis CB in the draft at number 8stupid smart phone talk crap

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  4. I do as well, johnny, but I’m gonna spray a little mist on everyone’s ever-growing campfire here (mostly just for fun). There seems to be this great budding confidence in someone who is a head coach for the first time in his career at a relatively advanced age for first time head coaches. While Mr. Zimmer is a fine candidate who has earned his shot, we really have no basis for saying this guy is going to make all these iffy players into a team who owns the NFC. Keep in mind, this in-your-face approach that worked as a coordinator may not be quite so effective as a HC. I’m lookin’ forward to what he can do just like the rest of us, but he hasn’t sold me on anything just yet. Maybe its the sales job we got on Childress and Brewster that has me flinching a little.

    That said, I like what’s going on here with the Vikes in terms of personnel. That #8 pick in every round could bode well for our future.

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    • Coach, I just like what he says and the way he says it….(especially after childress and frazier)…yeah, a little crazy and a little premature….but I “believe” we have ourselves a real head coach!

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    • buds, the only concern i have about zimmer is if he, as a new HC, tries to ‘water down’ his approach and loses some of what got him where he’s at. i don’t want a PC zimmer, that’s not what we hired him for. let the purple fire and brimstone burn

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      • He’s probably gonna need to dilute just a little Cal, but I doubt he’ll be much of anything other than who he is. We all learned that Burnsie was Burnsie no matter what his title, and most everyone else is as well. Guess that’s what bothered me about the public perception of Frazier. The man was simply who he was and I’m not sure that was a fault. But now, I really hope Zim is the guy.

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        • well, coach, i don’t mind a little change, as long as we get a title

          aretha said it best:

          R-E-S-U-L-T-S
          Find out what it means to me
          R-E-S-U-L-T-S
          Take care, TCB

          Oh (sock it to me, sock it to me,
          sock it to me, sock it to me)…

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  5. man, i thought i’d been busy lately. go vikes!

    get this alterraun verner dude, too! coolest name in all of free agency!!!!!!!!

    WHOOOOHOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    • Love that name too.
      ‘I am Alterraun, from Neputone and I am hear to take your football!’

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  6. Coach – all due respect to the actual coach referenced by the name, but Zimmer’s credentials for taking ‘no-name’ players and making a top 10 defense out of them speaks for itself. No one is promising NFC domination, just a much improved defense. Even a cursory look around the league clearly illustrates that Zimmer knows what he’s doing on that side of the ball. Being a first time head coach – age has nothing to do with it – has zero bearing on Zim’s ability to identify talent for that side of the ball. Comparing him to Brewster is ridiculous – what comparison is their to be made? Comparing him to Childress is slightly more plausible, except for Zimmer’s proven track record under multiple different head coaches. Finally, maybe Zimmer is in your face, but he’s apparently universally respected and loved by his players. Multiple interviews with his players and colleagues show a man much more interested in teaching than yelling.

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    • Valid observations, Big. He certainly does seem to have player respect on his resume’. Don’t put words in my mouth, though, as I am pretty sure I didn’t compare Brewster to Zimmer, just referenced the hype is all. I don’t argue what he’s done, and like I said, he’s earned his shot. I’m just saying the same has been said for a lot of other people in this league who went from success as a coordinator to head coach. Doesn’t always work. I still like the guy, all things considered, just not gonna give him credit for something he hasn’t done. Same with Spielman. Until he reigns over more than one wild card playoff game, he’s just another GM no matter how clever he does or doesn’t appear. Good luck to both of them, I’m pullin’ for ‘em!

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  7. It’s the offseason, it would be crazy to be sold on the coach a month after he was signed. He’s getting phone calls and doing interviews, all part of the gig. The only thing he could do differently is not talk, not interview. Would you feel better about that? Haha

    Corners and nose tackles.. Maybe we’ll draft a guard in the first round.

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    • Totally agree, nothing more he could have done differently to this point. Notice I was at no point critical of him. Just sayin’ what I was saying’.

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  8. You sent a chill up my back when you referenced Childress. I remember how excited I was to hear we had swooped everybody and had snatched this offensive genius, this QB guru away, away from all the other teams before he had chance to interview with anyone else. SKOL! (We screamed)
    Only to find out later that he didn’t really coordinate anything in Philly, hadn’t had much to do with grooming McNabb, like he claimed. and he was pretty much universally loathed at Philadelphia.
    Then he proceeded to waste 5 years of our lives while coaching the Vikings.
    Of course this is also the same guy who had a great shot at getting Drew Brees but didn’t like him because he as too short and inaccurate, then moved up in the draft to select Tarvarious Jackson.
    Luckliy, I don’t see any of this in Coach Zimmer.

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  9. I wouldn’t mind Martin, we’ve had relative health on the online the last few years.. Knock on wood. He’d provide quality depth.

    I agree you didn’t go overboard drawing comparisons between his style and other coaches, talkative like Brewster and a chip on him like Childress. I’m not backing the guy until he proves he can take a team the extra mile, that could be 2-3 seasons away..He’s a defensive coach though. They both coached offense. I also think he’s genuinely excited whereas Brewster was all puff.

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