The Vikings were slated to be Justin Smith's second visit of free agency. The former Cincinnati Bengal never made it that far. Instead, on the day he was scheduled to visit the Vikings – the second day of free agency – he signed a six-year, $45 million deal with the San Francisco 49ers that includes $20 million in guarantees and never boarded the plane for the Twin Cities.
Then the Vikings turned their attention to former Tennessee Titans defensive end Antwan Odom. They had a visit scheduled for Tuesday, but Odom was visiting the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday and Monday. Just before leaving for the Twin Cities, he got an offer he didn't want to refuse and signed a five-year, $29.5 million deal with $11.5 million in guarantees. He never made it to the Twin Cities.
When former Titan Travis LaBoy also signed with the Arizona Cardinals on Monday, Vikings head coach Brad Childress appeared on KFAN radio and admitted that he spent Monday morning looking at film of defensive ends, including former Titans and Eagles pass rusher Jevon Kearse.
On Tuesday, NFL Network reported that Kearse will visit the Titans on Wednesday and the Vikings on Thursday. A source close to the situation confirmed that, and rumors also have the Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers showing an interest but not having a visit scheduled. The Dolphins would be surprising unless they already know they won't have defensive end Jason Taylor next year.
Kearse was cut by the Eagles before free agency began, with injuries and a big salary leading to his release. He was slated for a $6.46 million base salary with $2 million in prorated bonus money and a $125,000 workout bonus in 2008 before his release. His salary would have continued to escalate to $8.9 million and $10.2 million in 2010 and 2011, respectively.
Vikings fans will remember Kearse as the player often discussed in the draft of 1999, when the team was coming off a disappointing loss in the 1998 NFC Championship game and observers felt they were only a pass rusher away from Super Bowl glory. Instead, Dennis Green and the Vikings passed on joining the "Freak" on defense with their own "Superfreak" on offense and chose quarterback Daunte Culpepper instead.
Kearse started his career with 36 sacks in the first three years, but he hasn't reached double digits since then. In the last six years with the Titans and Philadelphia Eagles, he has registered only 33½ sacks.
However, during Kearse's first two years with the Eagles, when Childress was Philadelphia's offensive coordinator, Kearse delivered 7½ sacks each season. On Monday during his KFAN radio interview, Childress called Kearse a good player and a good person. The coach said he would have to make some calls to find out more information on Kearse, whose agent is Drew Rosenhaus, the same agent that represented recent Vikings signee Bernard Berrian.
For his career, Kearse has 69½ sacks.
While the Vikings have signed three starters and a backup running back/kick returner in a quick and successful start to free agency, they still haven't been able to address a need at defensive end. They tried at least three times in the past week to get a defensive end to visit and were close on two of them before they signed with the first team they visited. Now Jevon Kearse has his original team scheduled for a visit just in front of the Vikings.