The Vikings aren't without questions at their safety positions, but they could get by without making any significant additions to their defensive backfield stable if that's the route they choose.
Still, rumors persist that Dwight Smith is a potential cut victim after an indecent conduct incident with a woman in a public stairwell last year. On the field, however, Smith proved to be a valuable player whose familiarity with the team's new Tampa-2 defense helped former defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin institute it quickly.
The Vikings' other starter at safety, Darren Sharper, is only one year removed from a Pro Bowl season, but, while his interception totals dropped in 2006, he still appeared to be an effective player after 10 years in the league.
Behind them is second-year pro Greg Blue, who started the opening game in Smith's absence and played admirably.
If, however, the Vikings do decide to part ways with Smith, there are a number of talented safeties scheduled for free agency on March 2.
Mike Doss, Indianapolis Colts (could opt out) – Doss's 2006 season was cut short with 10 games to go, but that hasn't stopped him from accumulating 254 tackles and seven interceptions in 3-1/2 seasons of play. If he isn't re-signed by March 2, this will be his first trip to unrestricted free agency, and the Colts might be in the worst cap shape with the most left to re-sign. Doss is likely to be a victim of their circumstances.
Deon Grant, Jacksonville Jaguars – After playing in every game the last six years and amassing 335 tackles and 18 interceptions, Grant could be one the players who benefits from the abundance of room many teams have under the salary cap. He appears set to test the free-agent waters.
Ken Hamlin, Seattle Seahawks – Hamlin might be the best of the safety bunch if he makes it to free agency. He's been a full-time starter for the Seahawks the last four years and produced 237 tackles and eight interceptions.
Michael Lewis, Philadelphia Eagles – Lewis is another strong candidate for a big contract should he hit free agency. He's been a starter for the Eagles, and in five seasons has 318 tackles and nine interceptions.
Lance Schulters, Atlanta Falcons – After a few years of bouncing from the Titans, Dolphins and Falcons and battling injuries, Schulters is part of the free-agent market once again. He had 77 tackles for the Dolphins in 2005, but in 2004 and 2006 missed significant playing time due to injuries.
Shaun Williams, Carolina Panthers – The former Giants starter has been missing time each of the last four seasons, and those foot and hamstring injury concerns could keep his asking price in check. He has 495 tackles and 15 interceptions in nine years in the league.
Gibril Wilson, New York Giants (restricted) – Wilson has worked through a number of injuries in his three-year career and performed admirably, garnering 268 tackles and seven interceptions. Those would appear to be solid numbers if another team is willing to depart with a first-day draft pick, the likely tender the Giants will place on Wilson.
OTHER FREE-AGENT SAFETIES
Mike Adams, San Francisco 49ers (restricted)
Jordan Babineaux, Seattle Seahawks (restricted)
Yeremiah Bells, Miami Dolphins (restricted)
Jay Bellamy, New Orleans Saints
Colin Branch, Carolina Panthers
Jack Brewer, Arizona Cardinals
Dwaine Carpenter, St. Louis Rams (restricted)
Tyrone Carter, Pittsburgh Steelers
Oliver Celestin, Seattle Seahawks (restricted)
Glenn Earl, Houston Texans (restricted)
Vernon Fox, Washington Redskins
Derrick Gibson, Oakland Raiders
Robert Griffith, Arizona Cardinals
Terrence Holt, Detroit Lions
John Howell, Seattle Seahawks
Todd Johnson, Chicago Bears
Kevin Kaesviharn, Cincinnati Bengals
Terrence Kiel, San Diego Chargers (could opt out)
Keith Lewis, San Francisco 49ers (restricted)
Mike Logan, Pittsburgh Steelers
Andre Lott, Pittsburgh Steelers
Jon McGraw, Detroit Lions
Quintoin Mikell, Philadelphia Eagles
Manik Milligan, Arizona Cardinals
Anthony Mitchell, Cincinnati Bengals
Donnie Nickey, Tennessee Titans
Tony Parrish, San Francisco 49ers
Mark Roman, San Francisco 49ers
Brain Russell, Cleveland Browns
Gerome Sapp, Baltimore Ravens
Bryan Scott, New Orleans Saints (could opt out)
Guss Scott, Houston Texans
Michael Stone, Houston Texans
Omar Stoutmire, New Orleans Saints
Travares Tillman, Miami Dolphins
Troy Vincent, Washington Redskins
Chad Williams, San Francisco 49ers
Tank Williams, Minnesota Vikings
Coy Wire, Buffalo Bills
Cameron Worrell, Chicago Bears
Chris Young, Denver Broncos (restricted)
Future Free Agents: Safeties
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