Originally posted on Fox Sports North  |  Last updated 9/3/12
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. In an effort to get better in the secondary, the Minnesota Vikings turned to a trade and the Arizona Cardinals were offering, "something that we kind of wanted" according to Minnesota coach Leslie Frazier on Monday. Specifically, cornerback A.J. Jefferson offered the skills the Vikings were looking for in their continued quest to upgrade a secondary that allowed the most passing touchdowns in the league last year while finishing tied with the fewest interceptions. Minnesota signed veteran cornerbacks Chris Carr and Zack Bowman during the offseason, but Carr was released during the final cuts on Friday and Bowman was let go after the Vikings finished a trade for Jefferson, a corner with size (6-foot-1, 190 pounds) that is versatile enough to play man-to-man and zone coverage and also has experience returning kicks. "We liked some things that he did with his cover ability," Frazier said. "He has the ability to cover man and also play some zone coverage. Good press corner, but he can also play off. He's a willing tackler. We like that part of his game. We felt like he'd give us something that we kind of wanted. We wanted a guy who could play some man coverage and he's shown that he has the strength to do that. His speed, his athleticism, he's a good kickoff return guy as well and he's a long guy. His size, we liked that as well." Minnesota general manager Rick Spielman told ESPN1500.com that the Cardinals had initiated talks that ended with the Vikings trading for the third-year corner. The deal reportedly includes undisclosed draft picks going to Arizona. "There's always a chance something like that could happen, but we were stacked at corner over there so there was a possibility they were going to make some moves at corner," Jefferson said. "Nobody knew who or when it was going to happen, so it kind of surprises me too." Jefferson, who played 16 games and made seven starts for the Cardinals last year after coming on as an undrafted player in 2010 out of Fresno State called the chance to come to Minnesota a "fresh start." His size could give him an opportunity to play outside in the Vikings' nickel defense while veteran corner Antoine Winfield plays inside in the slot. Jefferson said he hadn't played in the slot with Arizona, but could anticipate playing some inside with the Vikings. "They told me that they like my skill set and that I fit in with the younger group of guys that we have here and putting some bigger corners on the outside," Jefferson said. "They're getting a great player, a fast player, somebody that's competitive and a ballhawk all around." Jefferson, 24, is still young but does offer some experience behind starters Antoine Winfield and Chris Cook. The Vikings have a lot of unproven young players at cornerback, including rookie third-rounder Josh Robinson and second-year players Brandon Burton and Marcus Sherels. Carr and Bowman offered experience, but Frazier believes Jefferson is a better fit. Jefferson also offers potential for the future as a young player, but Frazier said the decisions wasn't made with age in mind. "That never entered into the equation," Frazier said. "It was about what guy could fit what we're trying to get done on defense that would really help us have a chance to win on Sundays. And we felt like A.J. gave us some things we were looking for and that's why he's here." Jefferson was returning kickoffs in his first practice with the Vikings also. Minnesota has Percy Harvin to return kicks, but is looking for a qualified second option for when coaches decided to rest Harvin for use on offense. The plan is still to deploy Harvin on kick returns only in certain situations. Jefferson returned 14 kicks last season for Arizona, finishing with a 25.4-yard average. At Fresno State, he finished as the school's career leader with three kick returns for touchdown. He had a 23.2-yard average his senior year after entering the season with a 32.3-yard average his first two years as a returner. In 2008 he was fifth in the NCAA with a 29.3-yard average and led the country with a 35.8-yard average in 2007. "If they want to throw me back there, I do some kick return," Jefferson said. "I'm real excited to get the ball in my hands whenever I can. If that's a possibility, I could do that too." No starter at safety yet: Frazier said the competition between Mistral Raymond and Jamarca Sanford for the second starting safety spot next to Harrison Smith hasn't been determined yet. Raymond returned to practice Monday after dealing with low back spasms. "We're going to talk a little bit more about it as the week goes on," Frazier said. "(Raymond) did some good things. Between he and Jamarca, we're going to work that out." Sherels likely the starting punt returner: The Vikings will likely continue to see how rookies Jarius Wright and Robinson continue to progress as returners, but Frazier indicated Monday that Sherels would likely be the top punt returner for this week's game against Jacksonville. Sherels is the most sure-handed of the returners after handling the job for Minnesota last season. One of the smaller players on the roster, Sherels continues to carve out a role. "Well, you've got to credit his tenacity," Frazier said when asked how Sherels continues to stay despite players being brought in as replacements. "He's one of those guys who's a little bit undersized, but he plays bigger than he is. And he's a multi-purpose guy. He does a good job for us on special teams. He's probably going to end up being our starting punt returner. So that, along with what he gives us as a backup defensive back, probably cemented his role on our football team. The punt return capability is one of the things that makes a viable option for our team." Roster makeup done with 2012 in mind: Despite going young at several spots in the final cutdown to the 53-man roster, Frazier said the cuts were made with being the best team in 2012, not necessarily with a look to the future. One of those positions was at quarterback, where Minnesota cut veteran Sage Rosenfels instead of undrafted first-year player McLeod Bethel-Thompson. Frazier said he wasn't concerned about having three young quarterbacks on the roster with limited experience. Starter Christian Ponder is entering his second season and backup Joe Webb is going into his third year, but his first solely as a quarterback after previous attempts at playing wide receiver. "I think if we get our No. 1 where we want him to be, which I think we're headed in that direction," Frazier said. "We have a lot of confidence in Joe, obviously with the move that we made. So, we're pretty comfortable and confident in the guys that are playing quarterback for us." Injuries into Week 1: In addition to Raymond returning to practice, Robinson also was cleared from his concussion and practiced Monday. Frazier said he expects both to be full participants when Minnesota returns to practice on Wednesday. Four players were out of practice Monday, all dealing with ankle injuries. Wright suffered an ankle injury on his final play of the fourth preseason game last week, but said Monday he isn't concerned. Sherels and safety Andrew Sendejo have been out of practice with ankle sprains. Frazier said backup linebacker Marvin Mitchell is dealing with a high ankle sprain and is status for Sunday is in question. "His is a high ankle sprain, so that's takes a little bit more time," Frazier said. "Marvin is probably the one most in jeopardy of being able to play in this first ballgame." Frazier said tackle DeMarcus Love, on injured reserve, will have surgery on his injured pectoral and has a recovery time of at least four months. Joining Love on injured reserve and out for the year are receiver Greg Childs (torn patellar tendons in both knees) and cornerback Nick Taylor (shoulder), both injured during training camp. Rounding out the practice squad: Minnesota officially added four more players to finish out its eight-man practice squad on Monday. The Vikings announced that receivers Tori Gurley and Chris Summers, offensive lineman Kevin Murphy and defensive lineman Ernest Owusu were added to the practice squad. Running back Jordan Todman, cornerback Bobby Felder, defensive tackle Chase Baker and offensive lineman Tyler Holmes were put on the practice squad on Saturday. Follow Brian Hall on Twitter.
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