Captain Munnerlyn is hoping his appearances at the Minnesota Vikings’ Winterfest this weekend is a good indication that he is still wanted by the organization, but he doesn’t have a strong sense of his standing with the team either way.
Munnerlyn, a Viking for three years now, is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent next month and his agent and representatives from the team will meet at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis in two weeks to further discuss the potential for his return.
In the meantime, however, the Vikings are scheduled to meet with another nickel cornerback, K'Waun Williams, on Tuesday, according to a source. It’s one of four teams he has either visited or is scheduled to visit, with a couple others showing interest.
“That doesn’t affect me at all. Seeing that didn’t affect me at all,” Munnerlyn said of Williams’ visit. “When I seen it, I was like, ‘Oh, good for them.’ That’s how I felt about it. If they do sign him and they do sign me back, I know where I stand. I know I’m going to be the guy out there at nickel busting my butt to go out there to try to win football games for my team.”
An undrafted rookie with the Cleveland Browns in 2014, Williams made a strong impression in the second half of that season and earned “secret superstar” recognition from the website Pro Football Focus. That site credited him with allowing just 1.06 yards per coverage snaps, 29th among cornerbacks that year, but credited him with the sixth-highest coverage grade despite him playing only 400 snaps.
Since then, however, it’s been a struggle, as he has dealt with multiple concussions, a hamstring injury and bone spurs in his ankle that eventually required surgery last year. He has a pending lawsuit disputing his release from the Browns last summer that will head to arbitration.
Despite Williams playing the same position as Munnerlyn and being the same size (5-foot-9), Munnerlyn seems comfortable that his veteran status and experience will trump Williams. But Munnerlyn has seen some of the social-media reaction from fans intrigued by the Vikings’ interest in Williams.
“I don’t really know much about him. I seen they tweeted and said, ‘Yeah, he’d be a good pickup. He made first-team all-rookie from PFF standings,’” Munnerlyn said, indicating he didn’t put much stock in that praise. “I seen that and I was like, OK, but at the same time that wasn’t a slap in the face to me, but they’ve got to do what’s good for the football team.”
The veteran was more affected by another cornerback move the Vikings made last year when they drafted cornerback Mackensie Alexander in the second round.
“Drafting a guy in the second round was like, wow. Me coming off a great year  in the defense and you draft a guy second round? They had to, just in case. You never know with my situation,” Munnerlyn said. “What if [another] team comes in and says, ‘Oh, Captain, we see you as a No. 2 corner’ and they give me No. 2 money? Would I stay in Minnesota just to be a nickel? Would he love me yet, or would I take No. 2 (money)? They don’t know. I don’t know. So they probably did that as the best thing for their football club. That was a business decision. I respected it, I moved on. I know I tweeted about it, like, Hey, best nickel in the league. Try me thing. I knew it was a business decision. I wasn’t mad about it.”
For now, Munnerlyn is hoping the Vikings offer him a reasonable deal and he is able to stay in Minnesota. But, in reality, he isn’t sure exactly what the team is thinking, other than wanting to meet with his agent at the Combine.
“It’s always a Combine thing. Hopefully they can get something done because I love the organization, I love the team, I love where this team is going and I love [the media],” he said. “You all embraced me since I got here from Day 1 and you all took me under your wings. To spend three years of my life up here, I adapted to the weather – it’s still cold, don’t get me wrong, but at the same time this is a great place to live. A lot of people don’t realize that.
“People always judge it by the weather, but you come up here and you spend some time here and you’ll be like, ‘Man, I really could see myself staying here.’ We’ll see where it goes. At the same time, I know it’s a business and I want to take care of my family. Hopefully I’ll get the deal that I want.”
He’s hoping his invitation to Winterfest as an ambassador of the Vikings this weekend is a good sign.