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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Krammer: Even after Alexander addition, Munnerlyn’s decision still looks like a win-win

By Andrew Krammer

The writing may be on the wall for Captain Munnerlyn in Minnesota, but his situation is nothing to which you should frown.

Munnerlyn, a former seventh-round pick then 25 years old, took his first big-time contract and also bet on himself when he decided to ink a three-year deal worth up to $14.25 million with the Vikings — his first free agency visit of the 2014 offseason. He reportedly had visits scheduled with the New York Jets and Tampa Bay Buccaneers and could have, like many free agents before him, prolonged the process by hearing out all the offers. Instead he agreed to stay in Minnesota on just his second day in the state.

“To get another contract before I’m 30, that was the key,” Munnerlyn said shortly after signing his contract in March 2014. “Just to go out here for three years and just prove and see if I can win them over a little bit more, get an extension after year two or so and just try to go out here and make plays and win games.”

Even after signing the biggest deal of his life, the always-assured Munnerlyn gave off the feeling he still had a chip on his shoulder. He wanted to win the Vikings over ‘a little bit more,’ though they just drafted second-round cornerback Mackensie Alexander as Munnerlyn enters the final year of his contract.

It’d appear the Vikings have different plans moving forward. Should Alexander live up to the team’s investment, the defense has a potential long-term trio also comprised of two first-round picks (Xavier Rhodes, ’13 and Trae Waynes, ’15) with Alexander, who just reaches head coach Mike Zimmer’s preferred 5-foot-10.5-inch prototypical height at the position.

Perhaps the Vikings and Munnerlyn (5-9, 195) can still find common ground for a future together beyond 2016. He has appeared in every game (33) in two seasons for the Vikings as an important piece of a vastly-improved pass defense under Zimmer. He’s a sure tackler, has the ability to force takeaways (four interceptions, forced fumble in Minnesota) and improved his game under a strong coaching staff after a rocky first season here. Munnerlyn drew criticism for taking too many chances in 2014 and seemed to benefit in 2015 from his relegation to the slot, a prominent yet part-time duty where he’s more often matched up against the smaller, quicker receivers.

Though those talents might earn him more money and possibly more playing time elsewhere as he’s scheduled to become a free agent after this season.

And should this be his last year in Minnesota, it’d take a dramatic drop off in play to consider his stay anything but one of those uncommon win-win situations between NFL team and player. Not very often do teams smoothly fill a key need with a stopgap player, then draft the probable future at the position while letting the aforementioned veteran play out his contract without disruption.

Two years ago, the Vikings’ personnel overhaul under Zimmer began and one of the top priorities was slot cornerback. Antoine Winfield had been let go the year prior and a one-year run with speedy corner Josh Robinson fell flat. Nose tackle Linval Joseph and Munnerlyn were the two biggest free agency hires that offseason and both have helped this defense possess a backbone once again.

Now Munnerlyn’s salary, which is the fifth-highest on the defense at $4.2 million this season, may be a little too rich to keep pace beyond 2016 for a Vikings front office anticipating ‘significant’ extensions soon. First up is likely safety Harrison Smith, soon to be followed by the likes of cornerback Xavier Rhodes, defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and, eventually, linebacker Anthony Barr and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

The well isn’t dry for Munnerlyn. In fact, the communal watering hole has grown since he last went to collect in 2014. The NFL salary cap has skyrocketed by $22 million in just the two offseasons since he signed in Minnesota.

More money is being thrown around than ever before in free agency. Especially in a pass-first NFL, there shouldn’t be a shortage of teams willing to pay for a proven 29-year-old slot corner.

The post Krammer: Even after Alexander addition, Munnerlyn’s decision still looks like a win-win appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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