The Minnesota Vikings need a ton of help in the defensive backfield this offseason, evidenced by their 26th ranked pass defense throughout the 2011 season. However, before free agency or the 2012 NFL Draft even begin, the Vikings might find themselves with a new piece to the puzzle that could help alleviate some of their coverage woes.
Yesterday, the Oakland Raiders released veteran cornerback Stanford Routt. Since his release, Routt's agent has confirmed that the Vikings are one of four teams that have shown interest in his client.
A seven-year NFL veteran, Routt has already scheduled visits with the Buffalo Bills and Tennessee Titans. The 28-year old cornerback has also received interest from the Kansas City Chiefs, Dallas Cowboys and Vikings.
Since entering the league in 2005 as a second-round draft pick out of Houston, Routt has compiled 206 tackles, 50 passes defended, 10 interceptions and two sacks. After becoming a starter for the Raiders back in 2007, he fell on the depth chart before finally regaining his starting spot in 2010.
The Raiders rewarded him with a restructured five-year, $54.5 million contract after the 2010 season. Unfortunately, he struggled to earn his money in 2011, proving himself to be a bit of a liability in coverage and a magnet for yellow flags. He gave up big yardage in the Raiders' man coverage scheme and consistently failed to keep opposing receivers out of the endzone.
Despite his struggles, Routt would be a definite upgrade to just about anything that the Vikings have to offer from their defensive secondary. Although the Vikings defense revolves around zone coverage, they are in desperate need of cornerbacks who are comfortable with man coverage and who have some upper-echelon talent. Routt would fit that mold.
Even though free agency doesn't begin until March 13, Routt is available to sign with a new team because he was released as compared to having his contract expire.
It's uncertain whether the Vikings will be willing to pull the trigger so early in the offseason, but this could be their best opportunity before the bidding wars really begin. With Routt on the roster, their defensive secondary would already look a lot better than it did throughout the 2011 season.
We'll see soon enough whether Spielman and Co. can start the offseason party early with a big signing before free agency really kicks off.