Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.
Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.
Bears defensive tackle Henry Melton met with the Vikings on Thursday, but the visit didn't end with an agreement.
Melton left the area Friday morning to reportedly will meet with the Seahawks, according to ESPN. He would've been an option at three-technique tackle with defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd but that appears unlikely now.
Melton, 27 is one of the top unrestricted free agents available despite recovering from reconstructive knee surgery on his left knee in October. The Vikings would probably like to add another defensive tackle with Floyd, nose tackle Linval Joseph and defensive tackle Fred Evans, who can play both nose tackle and three-technique tackle. Kevin Williams is an option, but he'll likely see a smaller role next year if he does return. It's a thin market at this point-.
The Vikings have agreed to terms with cornerback Captain Munnerlyn to a three-year deal and re-signed defensive tackle Fred Evans on a one-year deal, according to two NFL sources. The team will also sign cornerback Derek Cox to a one-year deal, according to another NFL source.
Munnerlyn will receive up to $15 million with $7 million guaranteed. He arrived on Wednesday night and was expected to meet with the Bucs and Jets if the two sides couldn’t reach a deal on Thursday.
"I had other visits set up but the number that Minnesota offered me was the number I was looking for," Munnerlyn said on a conference call Thursday. "I was like, 'Man, instead of leaving this offer out there I'm just going to take this. I think this team is on the up. They got a lot of talent."
Munnerlyn, 25, spent all five NFL seasons in Carolina. Listed at 5-9, 195-pounds, Munnerlyn returned five of his seven career interceptions for touchdowns. Munnerlyn had career highs in tackles (74), sacks (3 ½) and tied a career high in pass deflections (12) last season.
He said head coach Mike Zimmer's scheme sold him to sign to Minnesota.
"It's the defensive side -- I wanted to be comfortable," Munnerlyn said. "I think it's the same defense we run in Carolina, the same style and the same scheme. They broke down a couple things that I liked, and I was like, 'Man, this is just like Carolina.'
The Vikings wanted a four-year deal, but Munnerlyn signed a three-year deal so he could recieve his third contract before turning 30.
Munnerlyn expects to start and shift to nickel when called. He said he's had a similar role over the last three years with the Panthers.
"I'm kind of used to doing it, and I kind of like it," Munnerlyn said. "At first I didn't see how those guys covered guys in the slot. I was like, 'Man, it's very tough.' But it takes patience and time to get it, and I think I've got it down."
Munnerlyn, a seventh-round pick, said he's always had to prove people wrong about his height and whether he could play outside corner. He said when he first got into the league one of his Panthers' coaches showed him footage of former Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield. Munnerlyn said he's since attempted to emulate Winfield's play on the field.
"I started watching film on him, and I kind of stole some of his game and brought it into my game," Munnerlyn said. "I don't hit as hard as he do. He can really bring it when he tackles, but I try and make the tackles when they come at me and make plays just like him."
Cox, 27, is listed at 6-1 and 195 pounds. He spent last season with the Chargers but was cut this month after signing a four-year, $20 million deal last year. Cox, who was a third round pick by the Jaguars in the 2009, appeared in all 16 games last season and recorded one interception and 34 total tackles. Cox has 13 career interceptions.
The Vikings now have eight corners on the roster with Munnerlyn and Cox. They already have Xavier Rhodes, Josh Robinson, Marcus Sherels, Robert Steeples, Shaun Prater and Kip Edwards under contract at the moment.
The signings also means that Chris Cook, who is an unrestricted free agent, likely won’t return to the Vikings. He’s visiting with the 49ers at the moment, according to the Sacramento Bee.
Cook, the Vikings’ second round pick in 2010, didn’t record an interception in four seasons. He’s dealt with a number of injuries throughout his career and missed a career-low four games last season. Cook was also inconsistent when he was on the field despite his size, 6-2 and 212 pounds, and athleticism to play cornerback.
Evans' signing shouldn't impact whether the Vikings continue to pursue unrestricted free agent defensive tackle Henry Melton, who is visiting with the team at Winter Park at the moment.
Evans' signing will help add depth at the position. The Vikings only had four defensive tackles, including Linval Joseph, under contract before Evans re-signed.
The Vikings have been active in free agency establishing their defensive line. Evans will be the third addition on the defensive line along with Griffen and Joseph.
If the Vikings strike a deal with Melton during his visit, the team would be two-deep at defensive tackle and signal the end of Kevin Williams' tenure. He's spent all 11 seasons with the Vikings since he was drafted with the ninth overall pick in 2003.
Unrestricted free agent defensive tackle Henry Melton is visiting with the Vikings on Thursday, but he’s also the center of a lawsuit from a bar altercation where he is alleged to have bitten the restaurant owner.
WFAA in Dallas released surveillance video on Wednesday from a Dec. 23 arrest in Grapevine Chill restaurant and sports bar. Melton allegedly bit through the skin of Donald Payne, the owner, near his kidney, according to his attorney Darren Wolf. It took four people to remove Melton from the bar just before 2 a.m.
"When he was asked to leave, his belligerence and unruliness turned into violence," Wolf told WFAA.
Melton, who graduated from Grapevine High (about 20 minutes from Dallas) and played at Texas, was arrested and charged with assault and public intoxication. It’s difficult to tell but the report suggest there was at least one punch thrown in the video.
Payne has filed a lawsuit seeking over $1 million. Melton allegedly told restaurant workers that he “was a millionaire and the bartenders were nothing but poor white trash,” according to the lawsuit. Payne was taken to the hospital and released, accoridng to the report.
"There's some psychological injury there," Wolf said. "The thought of another human being you don't know biting through your skin, piercing your skin... it's a pretty frightening experience. And it's dangerous."
Melton’s agent, Jordan Woy gave WFAA this statement: “We have recently reviewed the lawsuit and do not believe the validity of the allegations made. We look forward to providing the true facts in court and will defend this matter vigorously. We will seek to hold The Chill and others accountable for any and all damages Henry has suffered at the hands of multiple men who attacked him.”
The Vikings dealt with four player arrests last season. Linebacker Erin Henderson, who was released in the offseason, was arrested twice in six weeks and charged with DWI and drunken driving. Wide receiver Jerome Simpson, who is an unrestricted free agent, avoided jail time after pleading guilty to careless driving and third-degree DWI.
Cornerback A.J. Jefferson was cut hours after he was arrested on a domestic assault charge.
Vikings free agent left guard Charlie Johnson said by phone today that he remains in communication with the Vikings but has been told to look around first before the two sides talk further.
"I guess the one thing I can say is the ship hasn't sailed, but they're willing to let me go out and see what other options are out there," Johnson said. "Once that happens, we'll go back to them and go from there."
Johnson said he and his agent have lined up interested teams, but wouldn't elaborate.
"Right now, we're at about five different teams that we're in communication with," he said. "Other than that, we want to keep it close to the vest right now."
Johnson came to the Vikings in late summer 2011 during a hurried-up free agency period that was condensed because of the NFL lockout that year.
"It's a little strange because the first time I was a free agent, I didn't have this much time to be patient and look at different options," Johnson said. "It's definitely a blessing, but at the same time, you'd like to know what's going to happen and know whether I'm going back to Minnesota or moving in another direction."
Johnson has started 48 out of 49 games, including one playoff contest, since joining the Vikings. He started 16 games at left tackle in 2011 and has started at left guard for every game but one since then.
Currently, the Vikings have two players on their roster who could start at left guard: Joe Berger, who backs up all three interior line spots, and Jeff Baca, who was a sixth-round draft pick a year ago.
"It's been an interesting couple of days," Johnson said. "Just looking to see what's out there. That's about it. We'll see what happens. By the end of this week, I'll know what's going on."
Johnson said he's not upset that the Vikings have chosen to let him explore his options first.
"It's just business," he said. "They have a plan in place and my people and myself have a plan in place. That's just the way it is. I've been around eight years and have had a lot of friends and teammates go through the same situation. So I know how it works. Ultimately, it will get figured out one way or the other."
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