On Tuesday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers landed one of the most sought-after free agents on the open market, Pro Bowl cornerback Alterraun Verner.
Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times reported the news:
#Bucs agree to terms with Pro Bowl CB Alterraun Verner— Rick Stroud (@NFLSTROUD) March 12, 2014
Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun provided financial details of the agreement:
Alterraun Verner four-year deal $25.5 million, $14 million guaranteed, salaries $5 million, $4.25 million, $6.75M, $6.5M— Aaron Wilson (@RavensInsider) March 12, 2014
The Buccaneers confirmed the deal on Wednesday via the team's Twitter account:
Verner briefly thanked the Titans and their fans: "Want to say thank you to all Titan nation for the four years of support and love. Thanks mr Adams and the rest for taking a chance on little ol me from Ucla."
B/R's Matt Miller suggests this will affect a current member of the Bucs:
This past season was the best of Verner's career since the Tennessee Titans selected him in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL draft. The 25-year-old had 22 passes defensed to go with five interceptions, 57 combined tackles and two fumble recoveries in 2013.
There still may be room for Verner to get better, given his limited NFL experience, which makes his future with Tampa all the more exciting. He has emerged as one of the game's premier cover corners, but he's also not afraid to step up and tackle in run support.
Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News heard Verner already had an agreement in place before he even hit the open market:
For now, free agent CB Alterraun Verner is not planning any visits. Source says he'll likely sign shortly after market opens on Tuesday #NYG— Ralph Vacchiano (@RVacchianoNYDN) March 9, 2014
Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean reported Monday that at least six teams were vying for Verner's services and that he and the Titans were still at a standstill in terms of negotiating a new contract:
Still no movement between #Titans and CB Alterraun Verner. Free to sign elsewhere tomorrow. At least six teams in mix for him— Jim Wyatt (@jwyattsports) March 10, 2014
That shouldn't be a surprise, because as Wyatt reported on March 3, Verner expressed a desire to stay in Tennessee but didn't feel he should take a "hometown discount" to do so:
[I]t is not like I want the Titans to spend all of their salary cap just to keep me. It is not like I need $10 (million) or I need $11 (million), or I need to be one of the top five highest-paid corners in the league. I want them to be able to sign other guys to help the team. But I also want to feel respected, and the way Tennessee has operated and the way they have paid veteran players, they have set the tempo on how they value players. So if they don’t offer me something that shows they value me, I feel like it is a slap in my face.
CBS Sports' Pete Prisco weighed in on why he felt Verner wasn't a good fit for the Titans moving forward:
I like Alterraun Verner, but let's be honest: The Titans wanted to replace him last year with Tommie Campbell, but he beat him out.— Pete Prisco (@PriscoCBS) March 10, 2014
In a narrative that will likely be beaten to death by the time free agency is over, cornerbacks' value has never been higher due to how often NFL offenses pass the ball in the modern era. Look no further than the Seattle Seahawks, who won Super Bowl XLVIII with a suffocating secondary and shut down one of the best quarterbacks ever in Peyton Manning.
Who is the best cornerback from the 2014 free-agent class?
Verner is the type of cornerback who can be on an island on his own and in essence take away half the field. Tampa is going to benefit in a big way from his presence and physicality. Since he has always played with somewhat of a chip on his shoulder, it's important for Verner to stay healthy despite experiencing his first big payday as a pro.
The other big positive is that Verner has never missed a game in four previous seasons, which is a testament to how conditioned he is and his exceptional technique—with an admitted bit of good fortune sprinkled in.
If he maintains his level of play from last season with the Bucs, look for Verner to enter the conversation as one of the best corners in the game. He has the potential to be in the same breath as Richard Sherman, Darrelle Revis and others—if he isn't already.