Last year at this time, all the talk surrounding the Buccaneers was about Tampa Bay attempting to trade for Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis. The Buccaneers did in fact secure Revis for a No. 1 and No. 4 (initially a No. 3) draft pick, but after the two who were responsible for making the deal with the New York Jets, head coach Greg Schiano and general manager Mark Dominik, were fired, the new regime decided they could better use Revis’ $16 million in salary to help fill holes on the roster.
With the anticipated release of Revis, Tampa Bay added to their needs and knew they had to find another No. 1 cornerback. The search for Revis’ replacement didn’t take long and late on the first day of free agency the Buccaneers signed Tennessee Titans free agent cornerback Alterraun Verner.
Verner, who has a great respect for Revis, says he is his own player and knows replacing the former Defensive Player of the Year is nearly impossible, but hopes to still bring a lot to the organization.
“Darrelle is a very good guy, very good cornerback over the years and I got to spend some time with him at the Pro Bowl actually,” Verner said. “I don’t know if it’s really just replacing, I mean it’s hard to replace a guy like that. I’m going to come in and be the best Alterraun Verner I can be and be the best football player I can be for this team. I think what they’re looking for me to do, I can provide for the team.
“Hopefully it’s going to be extra with leadership and just determination and hard work. Hopefully my teammates can be fueled by that. I wouldn’t really say that I’m looking to replace Revis, I’m just looking to be the best football player I can be and hopefully my teammates respond to it.”
New general manager Jason Licht was pleased to get Verner on Tampa Bay’s roster and spoke about what he expects to get from the former UCLA star.
“With (cornerback) Alterraun Verner, few found a proven Pro-Bowl corner that led the AFC in interceptions and also tied the NFL high in PBUs, but also on the tape excited Lovie and I for what he can do in this defense,” Licht said. “Lovie has a strong place in his heart for takeaways and turnovers and that was definitely one thing that stood out.”
Head coach Lovie Smith thinks Verner fits perfectly in his scheme, or any scheme for that matter.
“Cornerback, we talk a lot about the position, Alterraun Verner can play man coverage, great zone coverage player, has great ball skills and he’ll tackle.” Smith said. “Whether we’re going to be playing man, zone, whatever and as far as what we do defensively, we want 11 football guys, 11 athletes that can run and hit on the football field.”
Verner talked to PewteReport.com last week and spoke about the influence Smith had on him signing with the Buccaneers.
“It was big, it was instrumental,” Verner said. “It was probably the biggest reason I wanted to come here, just his reputation. I know a couple of guys who played under him and I just haven’t heard anything but great things about him. Even coaches that I have been around, have nothing but great things to say about him. So it definitely was a big part in my decision.”
Verner went on to talk about his strengths and even some things he wants to continue to work on.
“I feel like I am an all-around cornerback and you can ask me to do anything from going inside to going outside, to zone coverage, or man and can excel at it,” Verner said. “I feel like my skillset is creating turnovers. I think I am at my best seeing the ball and trying to get the ball at its highest point.
“The thing I can always improve on are the man-coverage concepts when you are in phase, or you are playing the receiver. Working on the best time to look back to go get the ball. Sometimes (in the past) I was too early, sometimes I was too late. There is always room to improve. When you get that timing down, then you can make more plays when you are in man-to-man coverage. And then just being a student of the game. You can never not do that (enough).”
Verner is without questions a smart person. He was a four-time school Honor Roll and three-time college Academic All-Pac 10 selection, compiling a 3.08 grade point average in earning a Mathematics/Applied Sciences degree at UCLA. His intelligence showed last week in his answer when he was asked if he would wear the No. 20 he wore in Tennessee and that was made famous in Tampa Bay by Ronde Barber.
“No I don’t even think I would ask that,” Verner said. “That number is sacred here. Being a football fan, everyone knows Ronde Barber. And not just what he brought to this team, but to the whole NFL. Hopefully I can help build on that tradition of great cornerback excellence that he started.”