Sheppard joins the flock

The Vikings made a big signing Wednesday afternoon, adding cornerback Lito Sheppard - a move that not only solidifies the secondary for the Vikings, but will likely steer them away from the crop of cornerbacks available in the first round of tomorrow's draft.

The Vikings made a significant move Wednesday afternoon that could have a major impact on how they address their pick in the first round of the NFL draft Thursday night, signing cornerback Lito Sheppard.

ESPN and reported that the contract is a one-year deal worth $2 million. The move is viewed as the Vikings getting insurance in the event that Cedric Griffin isn't ready for the start of the 2010 season or Antoine Winfield isn't 100 percent during the year. It also could greatly impact the team's draft strategy.

Sheppard has played in 104 games with 70 career starts and has 19 career interceptions for 460 yards and three TDs.

"Lito is a great guy who fits what we are looking for," Vikings coach Brad Childress said in a statement. "He's the type of person and player we value at the cornerback position. Coach (Leslie) Frazier and I have seen him up close and personal and we know what he can bring to our team on and off the field. We look forward to him being a Viking."

The conventional wisdom is that the Vikings now won't use their first-round pick on a cornerback, since they signed a cornerback on the eve of the draft when most teams are fully immersed in their war room preparation, opening the distinct possibility of the Vikings looking elsewhere.

A name that is sure to crop up in the discussion will be quarterback Tim Tebow, who has jumped from being a potential third-round pick to being on the radar of the Vikings with the 30th pick of the draft. More realistic might be an offensive lineman – either G/T Mike Iupati or C/G Maurkice Pouncey. Both are dominating interior linemen and could challenge for (if not win) an opening-day starting spot. However, in VU's most recent mock draft, neither of those players would be available when the Vikings pick at No. 30.

Sheppard was the 26th pick in the 2002 draft by the Eagles and was a two-time Pro Bowler in Philadelphia before being traded to the Jets last year. Sheppard was traded to the Jets in February 2009 for a fifth-round pick in the 2009 draft and suffered through an injury-plagued season that ended up seeing him benched late in the year. He was released by the Jets last month. Sheppard played with the Eagles when both Childress and Frazier, the defensive coordinator, were with the team, so they have more than a decent idea of what skills he has and how he would fit into the Vikings system.

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