The Minnesota Vikings ranked 31st in the National Football League in pass defense in 2013, so with nearly $20 million in salary cap space it's hardly surprising the Vikes looked to upgrade at cornerback in free agency.
The team may not have landed one of the big names like Darrelle Revis (New England Patriots) or Aqib Talib (Denver Broncos), but in agreeing to terms with Captain Munnerlyn of the Carolina Panthers on a three-year, $15 million contract, the Vikings may have pulled off one of the better value signings at the position.
Actually, according to Joe Person of The Charlotte Observer, the numbers were even a bit lower than that:
Numbers for Captain Munnerlyn: 3 years, $14.25 million,$7 million guaranteed, per league source.— Joe Person (@josephperson) March 13, 2014
Munnerlyn, 25, named both the financial terms of the deal and the defensive scheme of new head coach Mike Zimmer as selling points that helped land him in Minnesota when speaking with Master Tesfatsion of The Minneapolis Star-Tribune, who reported the deal at $15 million:
I had other visits set up but the number that Minnesota offered me was the number I was looking for. I was like, 'Man, instead of leaving this offer out there I'm just going to take this. I think this team is on the up. They got a lot of talent.
It's the defensive side -- I wanted to be comfortable. I think it's the same defense we run in Carolina, the same style and the same scheme. They broke down a couple things that I liked, and I was like, 'Man, this is just like Carolina.'
It's a deal the Vikings should be comfortable with as well.
Munnerlyn posted career highs in tackles (74) and sacks (3.5) in 2013, chipping in two interceptions and a forced fumble while finishing inside the top 12 at his position, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
|OVR||vs. Pass||vs. Run||RYA||Comp. %||TD All.||QBRA|
|10.1 (11)||3.4 (25)||3.8 (6)||763||67.3||1||85.5|
Per Pro Football Focus
Munnerlyn is also a versatile cornerback with experience manning both the outside and the slot. The five-year veteran expects that "dual role" to continue in the Twin Cities, according to Tesfatsion:
I'm kind of used to doing it, and I kind of like it. At first I didn't see how those guys covered guys in the slot. I was like, 'Man, it's very tough.' But it takes patience and time to get it, and I think I've got it down.
Now, everything isn't exactly sunshine and kittens where Munnerlyn is concerned. His coverage ranking at PFF (25th) was significantly lower than his overall ranking, and at only 5'8" Munnerlyn has his hands full with bigger receivers.
However, that coverage ranking was 16 slots higher than the highest-ranked cornerback on Minnesota's roster last year (Xavier Rhodes), and his diminutive stature aside, there's no getting away from the Vikings' dire need in the secondary.
Getting better in that regard with a top-15 defensive back for about half of what the Denver Broncos paid Talib is something of a coup for the Vikings, and a deal Bleacher Report NFC North Lead Writer Zach Kruse listed as one of the top bargains of free agency to this point:
I'm not sure I like any two moves, with $ and fit in mind, more than the #Vikings getting Linval Joseph and Captain Munnerlyn.— Zach Kruse (@zachkruse2) March 13, 2014
Given the totality of the circumstances, the player and the terms of the deal, it's hard to disagree.