The Vikings enter the 2008 offseason in a strong position with their cornerback situation.
They have a nine-year veteran of the league in Antoine Winfield, who remains one of the best tackling cornerbacks in the NFL. The biggest issue with Winfield was a suddenly injury-plagued 2007 season that saw him miss six of the final nine games.
But filling in nicely were a trio of first- and second-year cornerbacks that should give the team confidence in their future at the position as well as flexibility with their present. Cedric Griffin earned a starting position with the defense in his rookie year after being selected in the second round, and he continued his solid play in 2007. Marcus McCauley experienced a baptism under fire in his rookie season, but his persistence at a difficult position earned him nine starts between filling in for Winfield and opening games in the nickel defense.
While Griffin and McCauley were second- and third-round picks that gained early starting experience, second-year pro Charles Gordon, who played receiver and cornerback at Kansas, also had a strong season as he became more comfortable as a full-time defender. He earned three starts as a nickel cornerback on the slot receiver.
The only Vikings cornerback that is a free agent is Ronyell Whitaker, who began the season expected to be the main nickel back but was supplanted early by Gordon, and when Winfield was healthy the Vikings would often use McCauley on the outside and slide Winfield in to cover the slot receiver.
As long as the Vikings expect Winfield to return to a full offseason program with the team, which he said he planned on doing after spending much of the 2007 offseason away from team workouts, they shouldn't need to go searching for a front-line cornerback. However, with the last-ranked pass defense in the league for the second season in a row, they could opt to look for more veteran experience, at least on the sidelines, to offer an experienced view when needed.
Below are the cornerbacks scheduled for unrestricted and restricted free agency if they don't sign a contract extension with their current team before free agency begins in March. (Their years of NFL experience are listed behind them.)
Ralph Brown, Arizona Cardinals (8)
Matt Ware, Arizona Cardinals (4)
Jason Webster, Buffalo Bills (8)
Curtis Deloatch, Carolina Panthers (4)
Dante Wesley, Carolina Panthers (6)
Gary Baxter, Cleveland Browns (7)
Ricardo Colclough, Cleveland Browns (4)
Nick Sorenson, Cleveland Browns (7)
Nathan Jones, Dallas Cowboys (4)
Jacques Reeves, Dallas Cowboys (4)
Travis Fisher, Detroit Lions (4)
Keith Smith, Detroit Lions (4)
Frank Walker, Green Bay Packers (5)
Roc Alexander, Houston Texans (4)
Dexter Wynn, Houston Texans (4)
Terry Cousin, Jacksonville Jaguars (11)
Aaron Glenn, Jacksonville Jaguars (14)
Benny Sapp, Kansas City Chiefs (4)
Michael Lehan, Miami Dolphins (5)
Ronyell Whitaker, Minnesota Vikings (4)
Randall Gay, New England Patriots (4)
Asante Samuel, New England Patriots (5)
Chad Scott, New England Patriots (11)
Fred Thomas, New Orleans Saints (12)
Hank Poteat, New York Jets (6)
Williams James, Philadelphia Eagles (7)
Drayton Florence, San Diego Chargers (5)
Donald Strickland, San Francisco 49ers (5)
Sammy Davis, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5)
David Macklin, Washington Redskins (8)
Eric Green, Arizona Cardinals (3)
Jim Leonhard, Buffalo Bills (3)
Daven Holly, Cleveland Browns (3)
Dominique Foxworth, Denver Broncos (3)
Karl Paymah, Denver Broncos (3)
Stanley Wilson, Detroit Lions (3)
Chris Roberson, Jacksonville Jaguars (3)
Chris Carr, Oakland Raiders (3)
Joselio Hanson, Philadelphia Eagles (3)
B.J. Tucker, San Francisco 49ers (3)
Reynaldo Hill, Tennessee Titans (3)
Michael Waddell, Tennessee Titans (3)
2008 Free Agents: Cornerbacks
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