Vikings Should Move On From Captain Munnerlyn


With the season winding down, the Vikings’ front office and coaches will soon begin the tough process of sizing up their personnel and deciding who fits into the team’s plans and who does not.

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One player who seemed like a good fit before the season was Captain Munnerlyn. But after fifteen games, I have serious doubts about Munnerlyn’s future value to the team. I think the Vikings must take a serious look at cutting ties with Munnerlyn after only one season.

The Vikings signed Munnerlyn to a free agent contract in the offseason believing he would fill a large hole in their defensive backfield, both as an outside corner in the base defense and, possibly more importantly, as a slot corner in sub-packages.

It was also believed that Munnerlyn’s veteran savvy and strong personality would help the young Vikings’ secondary come together and develop an identity.

It’s true that Munnerlyn has helped the secondary develop an identity, but it’s probably not the identity Mike Zimmer wanted. Far from being a steadying veteran presence, Munnerlyn has often looked more confused and lost than the younger players he is supposed to be helping.

The Vikings’ secondary has overall been a frustrating unit and Munnerlyn is a big reason why.

You could maybe forgive some of Munnerlyn’s struggles early in the season when he was still getting used to the scheme, but as the year has worn on, the cornerback has continued to blow assignments and hurt the team. Week after week, when confusion reigns in the Vikings’ secondary, it always seems Munnerlyn is the one being barked at by his teammates and coaches.

The veteran player you brought in specifically to bring stability to a young secondary is not supposed to be the one still getting lost in week 16.

When he’s not losing track of where he’s supposed to be, Munnerlyn is often flat out getting physically dominated. Captain is a smaller corner but, like Antoine Winfield, he came to the Vikings with a reputation for playing bigger than his size. We haven’t seen much evidence of that thus far in Minnesota, and the comparisons to Winfield now seem ridiculous.

It’s reached the point now where teams are trying to create matchups to exploit Munnerlyn. Miami went after him hard, hitting plays of 40 and 41 yards against him during the course of what turned out to be a huge game passing the ball. Time and again, Munnerlyn found himself matched up against bigger players he simply could not handle.

Even when Munnerlyn had a chance to make a play, he couldn’t make it. This blown tackle and Mike Zimmer’s reaction pretty much sum up the kind of day Munnerlyn had against Miami. And it was only one of several bad days this season for Munnerlyn.

photo credit: The Cauldron

Given what was expected of Munnerlyn coming into the season and what has actually been delivered, I would say he has been the biggest disappointment of all the Vikings’ offseason acquisitions. He is not a smart football player and he does not bring the attitude and physical presence we thought he would.

If it’s Mike Zimmer’s intention to create a good secondary filled with players who play smart and play hard, I don’t see how Munnerlyn can be part of the plan. When Rick Spielman, Mike Zimmer and the rest of the brain trust sit down to grade personnel and make decisions about the future, they should absolutely consider moving on from Captain Munnerlyn.

Contract-wise, cutting loose from Munnerlyn would not be difficult at all. The three-year deal Munnerlyn signed before the season was structured so that very little dead money would be left after the first season. Per Over the Cap, dumping Munnerlyn would save the Vikings $3.1 million in 2015 and $4.25 million in 2015.

The Vikings clearly had their doubts about Munnerlyn and constructed a contract that would give them the option to move on after one year with only a small penalty.

But it isn’t even about the money. Munnerlyn’s base salary of $3.45 million for 2015 is certainly not a big deal. The cap savings you would receive from cutting Munnerlyn are beside the point.

The issue with Munnerlyn is that he simply is not the player the Vikings thought they were getting when they signed him. He has not been the answer at slot corner. He has given up too many big plays. And, worst of all, he simply does not play smart.

The Vikings would be better off dipping back into free agency this offseason and trying to sign another cornerback who can bring to the table the attributes everyone thought Munnerlyn would bring. Whether they go after another smaller inside corner or a bigger one who can match up more effectively against tight ends and large receivers, they can certainly find someone better than Munnerlyn, and without having to break the bank.

If Mike Zimmer truly wants to help his secondary grow and develop, he needs a genuine veteran leader, not the oft-confused, underperforming Munnerlyn. The money they would have to pay Munnerlyn to be a less-than-heady, not-exactly-hard-hitting, below-average cornerback next year would be better spent somewhere else.

Mike Zimmer is trying to build something in Minnesota. I just don’t see how Captain Munnerlyn helps that effort at all. Time to admit you made a mistake and move on. The Vikings are lucky that, money-wise, it was not a particularly costly mistake.