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Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Verner finds good money, great fit

By Paul Kuharsky

Alterraun Verner spent the past two years proving to the Tennessee Titans he wasn't just a zone cornerback, though he's at his best in a zone scheme.

He had a breakthrough season in 2013 playing whatever Tennessee asked and was the franchise's only Pro Bowl representative.

Alterraun Verner
Alterraun Verner is headed to an ideal situation in Tampa Bay.
He'll play some man coverage as a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But Lovie Smith is expected to employ primarily the Tampa 2 that Tony Dungy and Monte Kiffin put in place years ago.

And Verner, who has reached a deal with the Bucs, should thrive in it. He gets to the right places, he's got really good ball skills and he'll have a safety protecting him over top guarding against his one "weakness," a lack of top speed.

Tuesday morning on The Wake Up Zone in Nashville, co-host and former Titans tight end Frank Wycheck connected dots and projected Verner to Tampa, and he got me thinking.

Verner could likely have gone to the New York Jets and I think he would have handled it fine there, but Rex Ryan is more a man coverage coach.

Verner to Tampa might be as good a free-agent marriage as we've seen for a player leaving Nashville in recent years.

I am surprised by the money. Per Adam Schefter, Verner received a four-year deal worth $25.5 million including $14 million guaranteed.

It's not surprising the Titans wouldn't go to the lengths the Colts went for Vontae Davis (four years, $39 million), the Packers went for Sam Shields (four years, $39 million) or the Dolphins went with Brent Grimes (four years, $32 million).

Verner didn't get $9.75 million a year like Davis or Shields, and he didn't get $8 million a year like Grimes.

He got $6.375 million a year.

It's a nice deal, and congratulations to a very good player and good guy for getting it. I thought he'd do even better.

I never expected the Titans would step up to pay him big money, instead turning to Coty Sensabaugh or Blidi Wreh-Wilson the way they turned to Verner when Cortland Finnegan left in 2012.

But he took a deal the Titans -- who drafted him in the fourth round in 2010 -- probably could have handled. In fact, Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean says Tennessee made a late push to get involved. Verner's representation overestimated what he would be worth, and would probably have scoffed at a similar offer from the Titans earlier.

A $6.375 million average wouldn't have been at all out of line with the $8.6 million average of the Titans' other starting cornerback, Jason McCourty.

When the market emerged, however, Verner chose Tampa.

Here's hoping the Titans use the money they didn't spend on Verner to help fill other needs at pass-rusher, inside linebacker, right tackle and/or running back. And on an extension for a guy like Jurrell Casey.