The Vikings received linebacker Sam Cowart from the New York Jets in a trade for a seventh-round draft choice.
Cowart, a seven-year NFL veteran, has plenty of experience with Vikings defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell's system, having played for Cottrell in both Buffalo and with the Jets. Cowart was a second-round pick of the Bills in 1998 and signed with the Jets in 2002, where he has played since.
He is a versatile player who moved to middle linebacker last year before being supplanted in the lineup by rookie sensation Jonathan Vilma. Cowart suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament in September 2004 and never regained his starting job. He played in eight games last year.
In seven seasons, Cowart has 809 tackles and 10.5 sacks, despite only playing one game with the Bills in 2001 (torn Achilles tendon).
"Adding Sam Cowart gives us a strong veteran presence and leadership in the middle of our defense," said head coach Mike Tice. "Sam has played at an elite level throughout his career and we are expecting him to add that type of performance to our defense."
Cowart was expected to be released at some point this offseason because of Vilma's performance, but the Vikings guaranteed getting him with the trade. He is signed through 2007 and is expected to take over the starting job at middle linebacker in place of E.J. Henderson.
The Vikings had attempted to sign free-agent middle linebacker Antonio Pierce earlier this month, but the New York Giants eventually won that bidding game.
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