READ THIS GUYS ITS THE START TO A NEW DEFENSE the Vikings sign free agent Denver cornerback Denard Walker
Published March 12, 2003 VIKE0313
The Minnesota Vikings reached a contract agreement this morning with free agent cornerback Denard Walker, who played the past two seasons for the Denver Broncos.
Terms of the agreement were not immediately available. Walker is scheduled to appear at an afternoon news conference at Vikings headquarters at Winter Park.
The agreement came a day after a lengthy negotiation session between Vikings officials and Walker's agent, John Hamilton.
The Vikings made signing at least one veteran cornerback their top priority in this phase of free agency, and their focus moved to Walker after free agents Dre' Bly, Dexter McCleon and Tory James signed elsewhere. Walker visited the Vikings as well as St. Louis, Cincinnati and Jacksonville before instructing his agent to initiate exclusive negotiations Monday with the Vikings.
The Vikings' initial overture Monday was "disappointing," agent John Hamilton said. But Walker reiterated Tuesday morning he wanted to play for the Vikings and gave Hamilton the green light to continue negotiating. According to Hamilton, Walker was willing to spend Tuesday in exclusive talks with the Vikings but could move on to other teams later this week.
"I wasn't with Denard on his visit," Hamilton said, "but I'll tell you what: They must really have put on some kind of show for him. Because he told me he really wanted to play for them, even after we saw the early numbers."
The sides spent much of Tuesday trying to work around the four-year, $14.4 million contract Cincinnati gave free agent cornerback Tory James on Sunday. Walker and Hamilton considered that deal to be a starting point for negotiations; Walker and James are the same age, while Walker has a cleaner history of injuries and more experience as a starter
The Vikings, however, bowed out of the bidding Sunday for James, considering the total value too steep for a cornerback of James' stature, and made a lower initial proposal to Walker.
The sides gradually moved closer as the day wore on, taking breaks at about 3 p.m. and again near 8 p.m. During the second break, Hamilton said: "We're working on it. We've made some progress and we're trying to resolve our differences. But we've got a ways to go."
Walker, 29, played the previous two seasons for Denver after spending four seasons with Tennessee. He is considered by some to be the top cornerback available on the free agent market, and the Vikings envision him becoming their No. 1 cornerback and the centerpiece of a revamped secondary.
They are also entertaining a number of other free agents this week. Cornerback Tyrone Williams was at Winter Park on Tuesday, along with linebacker Barry Gardner. Other cornerbacks scheduled for visits this week include Kevin Mathis, Alex Molden, Tod McBride and possibly Donald Mitchell.
The Vikings are also scheduled to play host to offensive linemen Mike Rosenthal and Jerry Wunsch.