The Vikings signed cornerback Captain Munnerlyn to a three-year contract that could be worth as much as $15 million.
"I had other visits set up, but the number that Minnesota offered me was the number I was looking for and I was like, ‘Man, instead of leaving this offer out there, let me just take this,'" Munnerlyn said only hours after signing. "I think this team is the on the ups."
Meanwhile, the Carolina Panthers were "cap-strapped," Munnerlyn said, and weren't able to match Minnesota's offer. He said he pushed for a three-year contract with the Vikings instead of something longer so he would have the opportunity to earn another contract before he turns 30.
The 25-year-old Munnerlyn spent his first five seasons with the Panthers, starting 41 games over the last three years and registering four interceptions – all of them returned for touchdowns – 193 tackles and two forced fumbles over that time span.
Last year, he had a career-high 13 passes defensed and he set the Carolina Panthers franchise record with five interception returns for touchdowns in a career. That number through five seasons ties for most for any NFL player that began his career since 1970.
"I think it's from me being a punt returner," he said. "Every time I touch the ball, I think about scoring. So every time I get the ball in my hand, I think about getting in the end zone to help my team out, and that's what I try to do."
Munnerlyn started nine games in his first two seasons after being a seventh-round draft choice in 2009, but has seemingly gotten better with each year of experience.
"He's not a very big guy (5-foot-10, 195 pounds), but he plays big. He plays hard. He's durable. He's relentless," said Vikings fullback Jerome Felton, who played with Munnerlyn in Carolina during the 2011 season. "I think it was a huge get and he had a great season last year and it paid off for him."
Munnerlyn ranked sixth among cornerbacks defending the run and tied for seventh among cornerbacks in pass rushing, according to Pro Football Focus. He had 3.5 sacks in 2013.
The Panthers ranked third in the NFL in total defense and second in points allowed last year.
"He played a lot as the nickel back in Carolina this past year. I'm sure that's probably where he feels most comfortable, but I think you can move him around. But I don't actually know what they want out of the corners in Mike Zimmer's defense," Felton said. "He brings a lot to the table. He's quick, he's fast and he's relentless. He's not afraid to go up against guys bigger than him. He plays a lot bigger than he is. I think when you get guys like that and the passion and the intensity he brings to the game, it's going to immediately help your defense."
Munnerlyn said he will start at cornerback outside in the base defense and slide inside against slot receivers when the Vikings go to their nickel package.
"I'm excited about my role. I'm ready to step up even more, and show some of the young guys how to be a pro. I had to learn from somebody, and now it's time to be a teacher," he said.
"I've been doing it for three years now, staying outside, and when it's time for third down, slide inside. I'm kind of used to doing it. I like it. I actually like it. At first, I couldn't see how those guys covered those guys in the slot. I'm like, ‘Man, it's very tough, you know, to cover guys in the slot.' But it takes patience and time to get it, and I think I've got it down."
Munnerlyn was reportedly scheduled to visit the Tampa Bay Bucs and New York Jets after his time in Minnesota, but the Vikings didn't let him get away.
The Vikings also agreed to a one-year contract with 27-year-old cornerback Derek Cox (6-foot-1, 195 pounds), according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. Last year, the Chargers signed Cox to a reported four-year, $20 million contract with $10.25 million guaranteed in free agency. He was benched during the season and then released on March 4 before $4.25 million of his 2014 salary was guaranteed.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
Vikings sign playmaking CB Munnerlyn
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