PHOENIX, Ariz. - Safety Taylor Mays has opted for the Vikings and it sounds like cornerback Terence Newman has, too, as head coach Mike Zimmer takes aim at his old Bengals secondary.
With the emergence of first-rounders Dre Kirkpatrick and Darqueze Dennard, the Bengals moved on from the 36-year-old Newman after three solid years and they weren't prepared to give much more than minimum salary to Mays and his niche role of backup nickel linebacker/special teams.
But Zimmer likes dealing with guys he knows, especially in a youthful Vikings secondary, and he usually finds roles for people if they're good enough.
"I have an idea what they can do. I know what kind of people they are," Zimmer said Wednesday at the NFC coaches' media breakfast on the final day of the NFL meetings.
"A lot of times in free agency if you don't know the person or if someone on your staff doesn't know the person, I think you have a chance to make more mistakes than normal. I thought that was important."
A big safety, Mays didn't play much from scrimmage for Zimmer, 106 snaps in Zimmer's final season as the Bengals defensive coordinator. And Zimmer's not sure he will now.
"I talked to Taylor about a lot of things when he came up here," Zimmer said of Mays' visit last week. "The ways we might use him and try to use him. We'll just see how it goes. I don't know. He's a big, good athlete. We'll see."
Newman has also visited Minnesota and even though he hasn't signed yet, it sounds like he's about to. Zimmer politely declined to discuss Michael Johnson's decision to pick the Bengals over the Vikings last week ("I really just want to talk about my guys. He's not my guy"), but his face lit into a smile when asked about Newman.
"That's one of my guys," Zimmer said. "I know this kid. I know his heart. I know his toughness. Typically when I'm around him he plays pretty well. We'll see."
Newman, who turns 37 just before this year's opener, ("He's older than me," Zimmer said), looks like he's headed to his third stint with him. Zimmer coordinated the Cowboys defense when Dallas took him with the fifth pick in the 2003 draft and Newman went on to make two Pro Bowls. After Dallas cut Newman they re-united in Cincinnati in 2012 and Newman had enough juice left to start the final two years of Zimmer's Bengals run that ended in defenses ranked sixth and third.
Zimmer thinks Newman would be a superb mentor for the young first-rounder Xavier Rhodes.
"It's important. We have an extremely young secondary," Zimmer said. "Even for a guy like Xavier Rhodes who's one of those guys learning about the game, but this guy can help the progress of it work. When I'm not talking to him, he can be talking to him about some of those things."
And Newman plays that premium position that Zimmer's man-to-man philosophy thrives on.
"I was fortunate when I got to Cincinnati. We had two good corners," Zimmer said of Leon Hall and Jonathan Joseph. "It expedites the production of your defense right away."
LOVIE's TAKE: Tampa Bay head coach Lovie Smith simply said it was time to move on from Johnson and that's why they cut him after one season and $16 million and how he ended up back with the Bengals.
"Sometimes you just have to say it didn't work out and you move on," Smith said. "It's a little bit you have to like what you have and the players on the current roster compared to Michael. We just decided to go in a different direction and we needed to go forward."
The Bucs really don't have a replacement for him after Johnson limped through last year with four sacks on a high ankle sprain he received on the second play of the season. And Johnson never seemed to be comfortable with his surroundings in Tampa.
"We tried to make it work. It just wasn't about finances. We tried to make it work on the field and it didn't," Smith said. "We were all uncomfortable last year. When you're 2-14, you're all uncomfortable. Mike was a part of that. He wasn't pleased with his play like all of us weren't. So we were all uncomfortable."