The Vikings' need for a cornerback isn't pressing, even if they do release Fred Smoot, one of their prized free-agent signings two years ago. But two years is a long time in NFL parlance, and Smoot's time with the Vikings has been rocky at best.
He has gone from a $34 million prize (over six years) to a potential cut that wouldn't be solely for salary-cap reasons. Smoot fell from grace off the field with his connection to the players' infamous "Love Boat" party in 2005, then fell from the starting lineup in 2006 when rookie second-round pick Cedric Griffin simply outplayed Smoot.
But with their starters (Griffin and Antoine Winfield) intact and ideal for a Tampa-2 scheme, even the release of Smoot shouldn't prompt a big payout for a cornerback in free agency. The team still has Dovonte Edwards coming off injured reserve and Ronyell Whitaker and Charles Gordon as young corners that could fill the role of a fifth or sixth defensive back on the field.
Free agency is filled with a few dozen possibilities, a couple of franchise types and many more reserves.
Nate Clements, Buffalo Bills – If he makes it to free agency, Clements will be the top cornerback available. He's been a steady and consistent performer since entering the league six seasons ago and hasn't missed a game. He is expected to test the market, and already the Washington Redskins are reportedly interested in signing him. They won't be the only ones. It would cost the Bills $7.8 million to franchise him, but with a reported $33 million in cap space, they could certainly do it if they wanted.
Jason David, Indianapolis Colts (restricted) – With the Colts expected to lose at least a couple of key contributors in free agency because of their tight salary-cap status, David is likely a good value for them to re-sign as a restricted free agent. He has produced a solid 125 tackles and eight interceptions in his first three seasons in the league.
Travis Fisher, St. Louis Rams – Fisher's numbers have been declining the last three seasons, with 100 tackles and one interception in that stretch. He spent the last month and a half of the 2006 season on injured reserve.
Nick Harper, Indianapolis Colts – With less than $1 million in salary-cap room, the Colts have already applied the franchise tag to defensive end Dwight Freeney and may have to choose between Harper, an unrestricted free agent, and David, who is restricted. Both were starters last year, with Harper the more productive of the two. He has 327 tackles and 15 interceptions in six seasons.
Tory James, Cincinnati Bengals – With 11 seasons to his credit, the question that will follow James to free agency is how much quality play he has left in the tank. With 39 interceptions and 379 tackles, he's a solid player, and at 6-foot-2, he's got great size for a corner. The Bengals are expected to re-sign him, which could make him one of the more talented free-agent cornerbacks available.
OTHER FREE-AGENT CORNERBACKS
Blue Adams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (restricted)
Roc Alexander, Houston Texans (restricted)
Rashad Bauman, Cincinnati Bengals
Greg Brooks, Cincinnati Bengals (restricted)
Ralph Brown, Cleveland Browns
Phillip Buchanon, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Ahmad Carroll, Jacksonville Jaguars (restricted)
Chris Cash, Atlanta Falcons
Torrie Cox, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Curtis Deloatch, New Orleans Saints (restricted)
Jamar Fletcher, Detroit Lions
Randall Gay, New England Patriots (restricted)
Jabari Greer, Buffalo Bills (restricted)
DeJaun Groce, New Orleans Saints
Roderick Hood, Philadelphia Eagles,
Reggie Howard, Carolina Panthers
Pete Hunter, Seattle Seahawks
Chidi Iwuama, NewEngland Patriots
Eddie Jackson, Miami Dolphins (restricted)
William James, Philadelphia Eagles
Ade Jimoh, Washington Redskins
Nathan Jones, Dallas Cowboys (restricted)
Michael Lehan, Miami Dolphins
David Macklin, Arizona Cardinals
Dexter McCleon, Houston Texans
Hank Poteat, New York Jets
Jacques Reeves, Dallas Cowboys (restricted)
Mike Rumph, Washington Redskins
B.J. Sams, Baltimore Ravens (restricted)
Lewis Sanders, Houston Texans
Benny Sapp, Kansas City Chiefs
Keith Smith, Detroit Lions (restricted)
Duane Starks, Oakland Raiders
Robert Tate, Arizona Cardinals
Kiwaukee Thomas, Buffalo Bills
Frank Walker, New York Giants
Lenny Walls, Kansas City Chiefs
Jimmy Williams, Seattle Seahawks
Kenny Wright, Washington Redskins
Future Free Agents: Cornerbacks
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