The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are prepared to release cornerback Darrelle Revis imminently to avoid paying his $16 million financial obligation for the 2014 season and beyond. But that doesn't mean that Lovie Smith's new team will be without some real excellence in the pass defense department. As first reported by Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, the Bucs agreed to terms on Tuesday evening with former Tennessee Titans cornerback Alterraun Verner. The deal is for four years and $26 million, with $14 million guaranteed.
It's a huge coup for Smith and general manager Jason Licht -- for less in guaranteed money over a four-year span than they would have paid Revis this season, Tampa Bay gets a defender who allowed a 55.8 quarterback rating -- the third-best mark in the league among qualifying cornerbacks. It was Verner's first year as a real star, but he took full advantage, grabbing five picks and allowing just two touchdowns, and 39 receptions in 79 targets for 579 yards. Verner also started 16 games in 2012, but allowed a quarterback rating of 80.3, and two interceptions to two touchdowns allowed.
Selected in the fourth round of the 2010 draft out of UCLA, Verner was never a serious candidate to return to Tennessee -- the Titans had already wrapped up serious money in Jason McCourty in 2012, which caused Jason's brother Devin to lobby the Patriots to sign Verner and have him become part of the Patriots' secondary.
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“You’re not going to get a better all-around football player in the NFL [than me],” Verner told SIRIUS NFL Radio on Monday. “I’m gonna cover, [and I] don’t shy away from contact. If you ask me to play inside, if you ask me to blitz, I’m a football player and I’ll do whatever it takes to win.”
The Buccaneers went 4-12 in 2013 and haven't had a winning season since 2010, but that didn't seem to bother Verner, who also said in that interview that joining a successful team was important.
“I feel more compelled to go to a team that I think can win,” he said. “I haven’t had that experience for the past four years in Tennessee. Money is [priority] but it isn’t … I look at it differently … Some look at it tangibly. I look at it as more of a respect value. I would feel more obliged to go to a team that paid me $6 or $7 million and made me one of the highest-paid players on the team, than go to a team that paid me $8 or $9 million and I wasn’t one of the highest-paid players on the team.”
It will be hard for any other team to grab this kind of deal with any other free agent, especially if Verner is able to keep his current level of production and consistency. And joining a defense with several pieces already in place, and guided by Smith's undeniable defensive acumen, makes this a slam-dunk. The Bucs got a major score here.