The Vikings' secondary has undergone a major facelift since training camp. Ken Irvin is out for the season with a blown-out Achilles tendon, and the Vikings brought in two new faces that quickly moved up the depth chart into action.
Feeling the lack of depth in their secondary, the Vikings signed veteran cornerbacks Terrance Shaw and Ralph Brown this past week. Both players possess résumés that suggest they can contribute.
Both were starters in the NFL last season. Shaw, a 10-year veteran, started eight of 16 games for the Oakland Raiders in 2003. Brown, a five-year veteran, started 11 of 16 games for the New York Giants.
Both were released in the preseason, Shaw by the Carolina Panthers and Brown by the Washington Redskins.
The Vikings signed both to two-year contracts worth the veterans' minimums. Shaw, in his 10th NFL season, is set to earn about $1.4 million, while Brown, a fifth-year player, will make about $1.1 million over the two years.
Shaw (6-0, 200) is a 10-year veteran who has started 87 of 125 games during his career. He posted 70 tackles in 15 games last year with the Raiders. He's played in a pair of Super Bowls during his career and has seen action with San Diego, Miami, New England, Oakland and Carolina. It might take him a little while to get acclimated, but Shaw was a solid, veteran free-agent addition and one of the few proven guys out there that can still actually play.
The Redskins signed Brown, a fifth-year player, to a two-year, $1.4 million contract during the offseason but ended up cutting him during the preseason this summer. Brown (5-10, 185) is on the smaller side and lacks great sustained speed, but he's a pretty good cover guy and generally a tough, steady, all-around player.
"These two guys have played in the league and played at a good level, a solid level," head coach Mike Tice said. "Adding these two guys gives us some depth, and at some point I'd like to bring Derek Ross back if he gets healthy."
Ross, a third-round draft pick of Ohio State by Dallas in 2002, was cut by the Vikings on Sept. 5 when a previous knee injury didn't heal on time for the roster cutdown to 53 players. Ross, a 5-10, 197-pound journeyman, was signed by Arizona shortly after the Vikings released him, but he failed his physical there.
He has been with five teams since December. He was cut by the Cowboys midway through last season, then picked up by Atlanta. Atlanta, New Orleans, the Vikings and finally Arizona have all worked with Ross in the last year.
Brown started at right corner for the Giants when they beat the Vikings at Minnesota in Week 7 last year. Tice remembers him.
"We have some familiarity with [Brown]," Tice said. "We played them [the Giants] last year, he started in that particular game. He played pretty damn well."
Brown, who had two interceptions last season, is glad he latched onto another team. "It's a great opportunity for me," he said.
Shaw is a former teammate of Kevin Ross, the Vikings' assistant secondary coach. The two played together in San Diego when the Chargers drafted Shaw in 1995. "Since then he's been to a Super Bowl and won a championship and things turned out very well for him," Ross said.
Ross likes Shaw's tools, as well as his experience.
"He's competitive, he's got good speed and good size for a corner, and he's what you want on the field as far as being in big games," Ross said.
The Vikings waived Rhett Nelson from the 53-man roster on Friday in order to make room for Aaron Elling as a kickoff specialist.
It's been a defensive backfield of ebbs and flows in the last month, and it could continue on that path as the Vikings look to solidify every position for a playoff run.
Brown and Shaw are likely to be the third and fourth cornerbacks for the Vikings Monday night in Philadelphia, right behind Antoine Winfield and Brian Williams.
— Kevin Brown contributed to this report.
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