Minnesota Vikings: Darrelle Revis

On the eve of free agency last week, our four NFC North reporters -- Rob Demovsky (Green Bay Packers), Ben Goessling (Minnesota Vikings), Michael Rothstein (Detroit Lions) and Michael C. Wright (Chicago Bears) -- compiled a list of the top-15 free agents in the division.

A week has passed and nine of them already have come off the market, including six who re-signed with their old teams.

Perhaps the biggest-name free agent from the NFC North, former Bears defensive end Julius Peppers, did not make the original list because he was not a free agent until he was released last week. He signed with the Packers on Saturday.

You can follow all of the NFL free-agent moves in Bill Polian's free-agent tracker, but let's revisit the NFC North top 15 and see what has changed:

1. Sam Shields, Packers CB: Signed a four-year, $39 million contract just a few hours into the open negotiating period on March 8. His $9.75 million per year average made him the fourth-highest paid cornerback in the league behind Darrelle Revis ($16 million), Brandon Carr ($10 million) and Aqib Talib ($9.8 million).

2. Brandon Pettigrew, Lions TE: Re-signed with the Lions for four years and $16 million, including a $4 million signing bonus.

3. Jermichael Finley, Packers TE: Remained unsigned after a visit to the Seattle Seahawks last week. It’s not known what the Seahawks' medical staff thought of Finley's C-3/C-4 neck vertebra fusion surgery that he had last November following his season-ending neck injury.

4. Charles Tillman, Bears CB: Signed a one-year contract to return to Chicago last Friday after missing half of last season because of a torn triceps. The deal is worth about $3.5 million.

5. B.J. Raji, Packers DT: Less than a year after reportedly turning down a multi-year offer that averaged $8 million per season, he returned to the Packers for a one-year deal signed on Friday that was believed to be worth $4 million plus incentives.

6. Matt Cassel, Vikings QB: Opted out of his 2014 contract after the Super Bowl but signed a new two-year, $10.5 million deal with the Vikings on March 7, just before teams could start contacting his agent and will likely head into training camp with the inside track on the starting job.

7. Willie Young, Lions DL: Signed a three-year, $9 million contract with the Bears. Former seventh-round pick received his first extensive playing time with the Lions in 2013, becoming a full-time starter after Jason Jones was injured for the season in Week 3.

8. James Jones, Packers WR: Remained unsigned after the first week of free agency and has not had any known visits even after he ranked second on the Packers last season in receptions (59) and yards (817), the latter of which was a career high despite missing nearly three full games because of a knee injury. Three years ago, coming off the NFL lockout, Jones did not draw strong interest on the free-agent market and re-signed with the Packers for three years and $9.6 million. Could the same thing happen again?

9. Jared Allen, Vikings DE: Remained unsigned after the first week of free agency but reportedly visited the Seattle Seahawks over the weekend. After three All-Pro selections in six years, Allen's time in Minnesota is over.

10. Josh McCown, Bears QB: Signed a two-year, $10 million contract to rejoin his old coach, Lovie Smith, with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

11. Henry Melton, Bears DL: Coming off a torn ACL, Melton went unsigned during the first wave of free agency but has a visit scheduled with the Dallas Cowboys this week.

12. Devin Hester, Bears KR: Remained unsigned more than a week after the Bears said they would not bring him back.

13. Rashean Mathis, Lions CB: Remained unsigned after playing in 15 games and taking over as a starter early in the season last year.

14. Everson Griffen, Vikings DE: Cashed in on March 9th by signing a five-year, $42.5 million deal that included $20 million guaranteed to return to Minnesota.

15. Louis Delmas, Lions S: Signed a one-year, $2.25 million contract with the Miami Dolphins after the Lions released him with one year remaining on his contract in February, in part because of a cap number of $6.5 million in 2014.
MINNEAPOLIS -- For as much as the first day of free agency was marked by the Vikings' ability to add a critical piece to their defense in former New York Giants tackle Linval Joseph, it ended with several cornerbacks finding other teams. Indianapolis' Vontae Davis re-signed with the Colts for $39 million over the next four years, New England's Aqib Talib got $57 million over six years from Denver, while Tennessee's Alterraun Verner -- in whom the Vikings had expressed interest on Saturday -- signed not to play with his old defensive coordinator (new Vikings defensive backs coach Jerry Gray) in Minnesota, but with former Vikings coach Leslie Frazier in Tampa Bay.

Verner only got $26 million over four years (with $14 million guaranteed), which might reflect some teams' apprehension about putting him in a man coverage scheme. The Titans had used man coverage more often early last season, but Verner's best work there had been as a zone corner, and teams that plan to play a good chunk of man coverage -- like the Vikings now do -- might have decided Verner wasn't their best fit. That won't be a problem in Tampa, where the Buccaneers will lean heavily on the Cover-2 scheme used by Frazier and head coach Lovie Smith in their previous stops. But it does leave the Vikings still looking elsewhere for a corner.

So where might they look? Denver's Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie could be an option, especially now that the Broncos spent their money on Talib. He's 6-foot-2, is only 28 and was compared to Terence Newman (a Mike Zimmer favorite in Dallas and Cincinnati) when entering the draft in 2008. Miami's Nolan Carroll is another big corner who has essentially played in Zimmer's scheme; Dolphins defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle was Zimmer's defensive backs coach in Cincinnati before going to Miami, and Vikings defensive coordinator George Edwards was brought to town in part because he'd been working in the same scheme as the Dolphins' linebackers coach. Carroll would be cheaper than Rodgers-Cromartie, and he's a couple years younger, too. Cincinnati's Brandon Ghee could fit, for obvious reasons. And if the Vikings are looking for a slot corner after Josh Robinson struggled there last year, Carolina's Captain Munnerlyn could be an option, as Andrew Krammer of 1500ESPN.com points out.

One thing I don't see happening -- and the thing I probably got more questions about today than anything else -- is Darrelle Revis coming to Minnesota. Revis is only 28, and might be the best man coverage corner in the game when he's on, but he's had lots of contract squabbles, and will probably have more interest from teams closer to a championship than the Vikings.

Lastly, it's important to remember what Zimmer said last week about how he wanted to build his defense. "My thing has always been play good team defense, not just be great players, but be good as a team," he said. "I do believe you can be real good, if you get the correct guys in there that buy into the system, that want to play for one another, that want to take ownership in something bigger than themselves. Everybody sees that Maserati and they want to go buy it and you know you probably shouldn’t. You should probably buy a Ford F-150 like I got. Because if you get the F-150, you can keep building the pieces you need. So I think we have to be smart about it."

The Vikings could still draft a corner like Justin Gilbert in the first round. They could sign someone like Rodgers-Cromartie or Carroll, or possibly take a look at Seattle's Brandon Browner (who will be suspended for the first four games of the season). The position remains at or near the top of the Vikings' list of needs, but it might not get fixed with a $40 million investment on the free-agent market.

We'll see how things develop over the next few days, but options still remain for the Vikings at corner.

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