MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings began the three-day negotiating window before the start of free agency by reaching out to a cornerback who could deliver an immediate jolt to the worst scoring defense in the league.
According to a league source, the Vikings called to express interest in Tennessee Titans cornerback Alterraun Verner, who played for new Vikings defensive backs coach Jerry Gray while Gray was the Titans' defensive coordinator the last three seasons. Verner intercepted five passes last season and made his first Pro Bowl, and might be the top cornerback on the market this spring. He doesn't turn 26 until December, and would seem to be a natural fit opposite Xavier Rhodes in new coach Mike Zimmer's defense.
The fact that Verner is so highly regarded could mean the Vikings are in for a tough fight -- or will have to write a big check -- to land the cornerback, but Verner's connection with Gray could give the Vikings some leverage. The Titans decided not to put the franchise tag on Verner last week, and the cornerback could command a salary in the neighborhood of $10 million a season, but the Vikings, who had more than $41 million in cap room before signing Cassel, should have enough money to make a run at Verner.
They wasted little time expressing interest in him on Saturday. It's worth noting that general manager Rick Spielman called agent Eugene Parker to express interest in wide receiver Greg Jennings shortly after the opening of the negotiating period last year, and it's safe to assume the Vikings used a similar approach to begin the day, contacting the top targets on their free agent lists.
That Verner would be near the top of such a list doesn't seem hard to imagine.