Tice Trying To Corner The Market

The Vikings are putting the full-court press on free agents around the league, especially cornerbacks, as they look to improve their lowly rated pass defense of the last few years.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas around Winter Park. On the first official shopping day, the Vikings have put a number of presents under the tree, but it remains to be seen how many of them end up with a tag mark "To: Vikings."

The Vikings were busy Friday securing visits with a handful of recently available free agents -- most of them cornerbacks – and most of them at the top tier of their class. After another sub-par year in the defensive backfield, the yearning for a shutdown corner and maybe an additional nickel is no surprise.

Here is the list of recruits lined up to visit Winter Park next week:

* Cornerback Dre' Bly. Considered the top cornerback available after Baltimore slapped the franchise tag on Chris McAlister. Bly will visit Tuesday.

* Cornerback Denard Walker. Walker, late of Denver, will visit Friday.

* Cornerback Tory James. James, who was mainly a nickel back in an extremely talented defensive backfield in Oakland, is looking for an opportunity to start and would likely get that chance if he signed in Minnesota.

* Cornerback Corey Fuller. Fuller was just released by Cleveland, one of two former Vikings (Dwayne Rudd being the other) signed by Cleveland and then jettisoned this year. Fuller is not coming for a visit because the Vikings know what he can do, but they are negotiating with him.

* Cornerback Dexter McCleon. The Vikings are trying to arrange a talk with the former St. Louis defensive back.

* Punter Toby Gowin. The Vikings are looking for a punter/kickoff specialist to fill both roles so they can retain Gary Anderson. When Mike Tice didn't re-sign Anderson right away last year and dealt with the troubled leg of Doug O'Brien, the head coach called it his worst mistake of his rookie year.

The Vikings are set on improving their pass defense this off-season, and Tice & Co. appear set to draft a defensive tackle with at least one of their first two draft picks in April. But after the first two cornerbacks rated in the draft – Terence Newman and Marcus Trufant – the talent level appears to drop off. And Tice has said it is harder to judge the talent of a college cornerback than a college defensive lineman.

All that is the reason the Vikings are so intent on getting their cornerback through free agency. Their activity Friday is proof of that.

* With Jim Kleinsasser not going anywhere at least this year, the Vikings wouldn't necessarily have to sign No. 3 tight end Hunter Goodwin, but they'd like to. Goodwin is getting interest from Houston, Oakland and the New York Giants.
* The other free agents the Vikings have said they would like to sign are defensive end Lance Johnstone and running back Moe Williams, but no progress was reported in those negotiations.
* The attorney for Kelci Stringer filed a memorandum in her $100 million wrongful death lawsuit against the Vikings claiming that the team promoted the use of supplements containing the herb ephedra. The Vikings' attorneys argued that while the supplement was used by a number of players before being banned by the league, the team never promoted its use.
* Houston claimed linebacker Patrick Chukwurah after the Vikings cut him on Thursday.
* Also scheduled for a visit is former Green Bay defensive tackle Billy Lyons.
* If the Vikings don't sign tackle Orlando Brown, another option was thought to be Dallas tackle Flozell Adams. That won't happen anymore, as Adams and the Cowboys agreed to a five-year, $25 million deal.
* Another cornerback bantered about in Minnesota was Green Bay's Tyrone Williams. He was officially released Friday.
* Al Harris, a talented nickel back, late of Philadelphia, was traded to the Packers for a second-round pick. The Eagles also sent a fourth-round pick Green Bay's way in the trade. Harris played high school football with former Viking Tyrone Carter.

Viking Update Top Stories