Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


Vikings' patience will be tested by top cornerbacks

Posted by: Mark Craig under NFC Updated: March 11, 2014 - 8:56 AM

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer is a first-year NFL head coach trying to quickly turn around a 5-10-1 team that's built around a once-in-a-generation running back who also happens to be a soon-to-be 29-year-old running back.

So we'd all probably understand if he went into the free-agency signing period acting more like a kid going through the checkout counter at Toys R Us. But so far, the new guy sounds like he buys into the more restrained approach that Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman usually follows, particularly during the initial high-priced first wave that will begin at 3 p.m. today and last about two days.

“We’ve got a lot of holes to fill, but we want to be smart with how we use the money,” Zimmer said. “We don’t want to go crazy in this thing.”

Three days ago, the Vikings top two needs in free agency were a starting defensive end to replace Jared Allen and a quarterback to serve as a temporary bridge to the future. Those needs were met when the Vikings re-signed Everson Griffen and Matt Cassel.

So you can scratch Bengals high-priced defensive end Michael Johnson off the list of players who could make the Vikings lose that patience early in free agency. Johnson is unliked to show up here when the Vikings have already given the starter's money (five years, $42.5 million with $20 million guaranteed) and role to Griffen.

The Vikings' new top priorities heading into free agency are at nose tackle, left guard, weak-side linebacker and cornerback. But not necessarily in that order.

Yes, the Vikings don't have starters at nose tackle, left guard or weak-side linebacker. But the cornerback position looks extremely bleak behind Xavier Rhodes. Chris Cook is likely to move on via free agency and Josh Robinson didn't prove himself as a first-year starter before being injured last season. Plus, even if you think Robinson will develop, NFL teams need three top corners to operate effectively on defense.

So if there's any position that tempts Spielman the way Greg Jennings did last year when the Vikings were in a serious pickle at receiver, it's cornerback. And the top ones in free agency aren't cheap.

The Vikings already have reached out to Titans free agent corner Alterraun Verner, a 25-year-old rising star who played under Jerry Gray, the former Tennessee defensive coordinator and now Vikings defensive backs coach. 

Other top corners available are New England's Aqib Talib, Denver's Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Indianapolis' Vontae Davis.

The Vikings should have more than $25 million of cap space left after the deals for Cassel, Griffen and middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley are calculated. So it's possible they could target Verner or another top corner and pull it off.

Of course, they'd have to lose some of that patience Zimmer was preaching last week.

“I think if we go out and spend a whole bunch of money now, we’d be upset two years from now because some of them didn’t work out,” Zimmer said. “So we’re going to be real diligent in how we approach this and making sure that not only is it best for next year, but best for the long run, too.

“Everybody sees that Maserati and they want to go buy it and you know you probably shouldn’t. You should probably buy a Ford F-150, like I got. Because if you get the F150, you can keep building the pieces you need. So I think we have to be smart about it.”

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Baltimore - LP: K. Gausman 1 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - WP: J. Arrieta 4
Houston - WP: T. Sipp 5 FINAL
Cleveland - LP: C. Allen 1
San Francisco - WP: T. Hudson 10 FINAL
Washington - LP: D. Fister 3
St. Louis - LP: A. Wainwright 4 FINAL
Philadelphia - WP: K. Kendrick 5
Chicago WSox - LP: D. Webb 3 FINAL
NY Yankees - WP: D. Robertson 4
Tampa Bay - WP: D. Smyly 8 FINAL
Toronto - LP: M. Stroman 0
Atlanta 1 Top 11th Inning
Cincinnati 1
Seattle 5 Bottom 9th Inning
Boston 3
Kansas City 5 Top 8th Inning
Texas 3
Pittsburgh 6 Top 8th Inning
Milwaukee 2
Detroit 5 Bottom 6th Inning
Minnesota 6
Miami 6 Top 6th Inning
Colorado 4
San Diego 0 Bottom 4th Inning
Arizona 4
LA Angels 1 Bottom 2nd Inning
Oakland 1
NY Mets 1 Bottom 3rd Inning
Los Angeles 0
Carolina 7 FINAL
New England 30
NY Giants 28 4th Qtr 3:05
NY Jets 24
Jacksonville 12 FINAL
Detroit 13
Oakland 7 4th Qtr 15:00
Green Bay 25
Chicago 0 1st Qtr 1:09
Seattle 14
Tampa Bay 8/23/14 3:30 PM
Buffalo
Tennessee 8/23/14 6:00 PM
Atlanta
Dallas 8/23/14 6:00 PM
Miami
Washington 8/23/14 6:30 PM
Baltimore
New Orleans 8/23/14 7:00 PM
Indianapolis
Minnesota 8/23/14 7:00 PM
Kansas City
St. Louis 8/23/14 7:00 PM
Cleveland
Houston 8/23/14 8:00 PM
Denver
San Diego 8/24/14 3:00 PM
San Francisco
Cincinnati 8/24/14 7:00 PM
Arizona
Atlanta 8/28/14 5:00 PM
Jacksonville
Detroit 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Buffalo
Indianapolis 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Kansas City 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Green Bay
NY Jets 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
St. Louis 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Miami
Carolina 8/28/14 6:30 PM
Pittsburgh
New England 8/28/14 6:30 PM
NY Giants
Washington 8/28/14 6:30 PM
Tampa Bay
Baltimore 8/28/14 7:00 PM
New Orleans
Chicago 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Cleveland
Denver 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Dallas
Minnesota 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Tennessee
San Francisco 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Houston
Arizona 8/28/14 9:00 PM
San Diego
Seattle 8/28/14 9:00 PM
Oakland
(21) Texas A&M 8/28/14 5:00 PM
(9) So Carolina
Wake Forest 8/28/14 6:00 PM
ULM
Boise State 8/28/14 7:00 PM
(18) Ole Miss
Tulane 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Temple 8/28/14 8:15 PM
Vanderbilt
Rutgers 8/28/14 9:00 PM
Washington St
Weber State 8/28/14 9:30 PM
(19) Arizona State
BYU 8/29/14 6:00 PM
Connecticut
(6) Jacksonville St 8/29/14 6:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Bowling Green 8/29/14 6:30 PM
Western Ky
TX-San Antonio 8/29/14 8:00 PM
Houston
Colorado State 8/29/14 8:00 PM
Colorado
UNLV 8/29/14 9:30 PM
Arizona
UCF 8/30/14 7:30 AM
Penn State
Real Salt Lake 0 2nd Half 35:00
FC Dallas 1
Montreal 12 1:32
Winnipeg 8
Toronto 8/23/14 3:00 PM
Edmonton
Calgary 8/24/14 2:00 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 8/24/14 6:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Ottawa 8/29/14 6:30 PM
Montreal
Winnipeg 8/31/14 2:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Toronto 9/1/14 12:00 PM
Hamilton
Edmonton 9/1/14 3:30 PM
Calgary
Chicago 80 FINAL
Atlanta 77
Los Angeles 26 2nd Qtr 2:35
Phoenix 25
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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pm
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pm
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis Noon
Sep 14 - vs. New England Noon
Sep 21 - at New Orleans Noon
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pm
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pm
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit Noon
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo Noon
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay Noon
Nov 2 - vs. Washington Noon
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago Noon
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay Noon
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina Noon
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets Noon
Dec 14 - at Detroit Noon
Dec 21 - at Miami Noon
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon

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