Defense Looking Very Cottrellian

Defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell is putting his stamp on this team early, with many of the new acquisitions already familiar with his style.

The Vikings are starting to look more familiar to new defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell. He's been on the job a few months, which has helped. But it also helps that he's pulled in three free agents he was comfortable with in past years with the Jets and Bills and is looking for another defender he has experience with.

The most significant, of course, is cornerback Antoine Winfield. The Vikings whisked him away from the Jets two weeks ago. The Jets had a verbal agreement and were moments from signing Winfield when Winfield felt, among other things, a tug of loyalty to Cottrell, who was his defensive coordinator for two seasons in Buffalo.

"It's obvious guys love to play for Ted," Vikings coach Mike Tice said. "He just brings out something in them."

Cottrell then played a role in Steve Martin, a big nose tackle from Houston, leaving behind an offer from the Texans and more money from the Giants to join the Vikings. Martin gives the Vikings a large backup presence they need now that Fred Robbins left for the Giants.

Martin is a St. Paul native. He wanted to return home. But he also expressed a desire to play for Cottrell.

Martin played under Cottrell with the Jets in 2001. It was one of his best seasons with 78 tackles and 2 1/2 sacks in 15 games.

Next up was safety Tyrone Carter, a former Viking and University of Minnesota All-America player. Carter was drafted in the fourth round by the Vikings in 2000 and played his first three seasons in Minnesota.

He left for the Jets and more money last season, but was released in a cost-cutting move by the Jets on March 1.

The first person to call him after he was released was Cottrell. Carter was a backup for Cottrell in New York during the first six games of the 2003 season. But then, after injuries hit the team, Carter became a dependable starter for the final 10 games.

"He had the ability to make the calls, get everybody lined up correctly," Cottrell said. "He's also a solid tackler and has a nose for the ball."

Carter didn't hesitate rejoining the Vikings, where he will be used as a backup safety and special teams player. He said one of the main reasons was Cottrell.

Next on the radar is linebacker Kenyatta Wright, who is a restricted free agent from the New York Jets. The Vikings have been keeping an eye open for backup middle linebackers with special teams experience, and Wright had that role under Cottrell last year with the New York Jets. Minnesota wouldn't have to surrender any draft picks to obtain Wright, but the Jets have the right to match any offer the Vikings put in front of him.

The Vikings are also looking for a starting outside linebacker, but that is more likely to be found in the draft at this point.

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