Safety Position An Interesting 2008 Storyline

The acquisition of Jared Allen should help the Vikings get more pressure on the quarterback, but which safety will benefit from that most – the old veteran, the new free-agent acquisition or the highly-regarded rookie?

There are many who feel the Vikings' acquisition of standout defensive end Jared Allen will prove to be a huge benefit for Pro Bowl safety Darren Sharper.

Follow the logic:

Allen will provide the type of consistent pressure that the Vikings haven't been able to get in recent years — he had an NFL-leading 15.5 sacks last season with Kansas City — thus Sharper, who can sniff out a potential interception from a mile away, should be able to step in front of plenty of errant passes.

While this might be true, Sharper should enjoy any success he has in purple in 2008. Why? The veteran will turn 33 in November, is entering the final season of his contract and might have seen his replacement selected in the second round of this year's NFL draft.

Minnesota traded up in that round in order to take Arkansas State safety Tyrell Johnson. Johnson opened eyes at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis — he had a time of 4.44 in the 40-yard dash — and also more than held his own in games against big-time programs such as Tennessee and Texas.

"When you compare him, we thought he had unique ball skills which is something that's very important, especially at the safety position," said Rick Spielman, Vikings vice president of player personnel. "He has an excellent closing burst, anticipates well, does a nice job when they do send him on blitzes. He can play either off or up in the box, so he brings you a complete safety where it gives you some flexibility on the back end to roll your safety up."

The Vikings' long-term plan is to pair Johnson with veteran Madieu Williams, whom the franchise made one of the highest-paid free agents in the NFL in March when it signed him as a free agent. Williams, a member of the Cincinnati Bengals for his first four seasons, will turn 27 in October.

Johnson, whose father is former NBA All-Star Alvin Robertson, certainly doesn't lack any confidence about his ability to have an immediate impact.

"I think I can come in and contribute right away," he said. "Kind of like coming out of high school and going to college, I thought I could have played my first year but they redshirted me. I was ready and willing to play. It's the same thing coming into the NFL.

"I am ready and willing. It all depends on what the coaching staff has for me and I'm just going to respect whatever they have for me and whatever they want me to do. I'm going to be there and I'm going to get it done."

NOTES

  • The Vikings clearly have taken a "win now" approach entering Brad Childress' third season as a coach.

    If an aggressive plan early in free agency wasn't convincing enough, the Vikings' brass made its intentions for 2008 clear when they traded three draft picks (a first- and two third-rounders) to Kansas City in order to obtain the rights to Pro Bowl defensive end Jared Allen.

    Allen, who led the NFL last season 15.5 sacks in 14 games and fills a glaring need for the Vikings, received a monster $74 million, six-year contract that guarantees just over $31 million.

    Include the contracts of free-agent additions Bernard Berrian, Madieu Williams and others and owner Zygi Wilf has guaranteed nearly $70 million in contracts this offseason.

  • The biggest surprise of the Vikings' draft was they did not take an offensive tackle. That was one of the deepest spots and the Vikings could have used depth in that area. Coach Brad Childress said, "I'm OK with it," when asked about the team's current tackle situation. "We have (second-year reserve) Chase Johnson, who I believe will be a year better," Childress said. "You have (veteran reserve) Artis Hicks, who has that swing capability there and (veteran reserve) Marcus Johnson, so none of that has changed. Nobody has left us in that regard there."

    Starting left tackle Bryant McKinnie could be facing disciplinary action from the NFL after being arrested in February following a brawl in Miami, Fla.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "I don't think you are ever satisfied. You never have the perfect 53 and you are always looking to upgrade. We'll continue to do that because I think the first time you say, ‘Man, we've arrived,' that's when you make your mistake. Now you keep pushing through and right after this draft a couple of weeks from now we'll be getting started on next year's draft and we'll see what happens during the summer on who gets cut or if there are any potential trades out there that could help us. That's our job is to try to get Coach Childress the best players to help us win and we'll continue to do that." — Vikings vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman on assessing the team's roster and the fact it appears considerably stronger than this point last year.


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