The Minnesota Vikings went into this offseason knowing they need an upgrade or two at cornerback. They let Chris Cook walk as part of the cleansing process, and have now added free agent Captain Munnerlyn to help usher in the Mike Zimmer era.
According to early reports, Munnerlyn signed a three-year deal worth $14.25 million.
Munnerlyn, formerly of the Carolina Panthers, is one of the toughest, most physical cornerbacks in the NFL despite his 5’8’’, 186-pound frame. He graded out as one of the top cornerbacks against the run last season, accumulating a league-high 30 stops (tackles made constituting an offensive failure). Above all, he’s aggressive, hard-nosed and not afraid to get dirty in order to make a big play. Plus, he’s a threat to rack up sacks, evidenced by the four he notched in 2013.
Moving forward, he’s going to need some work in terms of coverage abilities. Although he possesses outstanding instincts and big-play ability (his last four interceptions were all pick-sixes), Munnerlyn allowed 68 percent of the passes into his coverage to be caught in 2013. Considering he only gave up one touchdown, though, there’s reason to believe that he can improve.
Now with the Vikings, Munnerlyn will slide in across from Xavier Rhodes as the other starting cornerback. He’ll likely line up outside in the base defense, while bumping inside to play the slot in nickel formations. It’ll be a huge upgrade over Josh Robinson in the slot.
Zimmer, a defensive-minded coach, has come into Minnesota and is making an early mark on the roster. He went out and signed a physical interior presence in Linval Joseph, and now adds a top-notch cornerback to the mix in Munnerlyn. Zimmer has a plan to make the Vikings relevant again, and appears to be implementing it perfectly.
Munnerlyn is a win for the Vikings. I don’t want to jump to conclusions, but he shows shades of Antoine Winfield in his game. If he can turn out to be anywhere as effective as the recently-retired legend, he’ll be celebrated in the Twin Cities.