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.
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.
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.
Munnerlyn, 25, was a seventh-round selection for the Panthers in 2009 and 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 will be the seventh corner on the roster. The Vikings already have Xavier Rhodes, Josh Robinson, Marcus Sherels, Robert Steeples, Shaun Prater and Kip Edwards under contract at the moment. The signing 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.
Munnerlyn will likely be used as a nickel cornerback. The move would allow Robinson, who shifted over to nickel last season, to play outside cornerback where he’s more comfortable. Rhodes should be an outside cornerback following a solid rookie season regardless on how head coach Mike Zimmer plans to use Munnerlyn and Robinson.
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-agency tracker …
Updated March 13 with NT Fred Evans signing one-year deal ...
We’re tracking all things Purple, starting with what’s already happened and projecting what still needs to happen as the Vikings work their way through free agency. Here we go:
QB Matt Cassel: Agreed to terms on a two-year, $10 million deal on March 8. Signed the deal March 10.
What it means: The Vikings would have gone into free agency with their No. 1 need being a veteran quarterback to serve as their temporary bridge to the future. Cassel, who went 3-3 and played in all five of the Vikings’ wins a year ago, isn’t perfect, but he’s the best-case scenario in a weak quarterback market. Now, the Vikings can shift their QB focus to picking the right one in the draft.
DE Everson Griffen: Agreed to terms on a five-year, $31.5 million deal on March 8. Signed on March 10.
What it means: A starting right defensive end to replace Jared Allen would have been priority No. 2 heading into free agency. Signing the 26-year-old Griffen filled that need with a familiar player who’s been solid, is full of star potential and is heading into his prime seasons.
MLB Jasper Brinkley: Signed a one-year deal before the free-agency signing period began March 11.
What it means: The Vikings let Brinkley, a starter in 2012, walk away before the 2013 season. Then he failed in Arizona and was released after the season. So we’re not talking any guarantees here. He will compete with Audie Cole and Michael Mauti at middle linebacker with perhaps one of them being able to move over and compete with Gerald Hodges at the weak-side linebacker spot.
C-G Joe Berger: Signed a one-year deal March 11.
What it means: Berger might be the most underrated player on the team. He's primarily a center, and he’s been good enough to start there. But he also can be a serviceable starter and backup at both guard positions as well. With starting left guard Charlie Johnson still testing the market, Berger at least gives the Vikings someone with experience who could start at left guard.
RB Matt Asiata: Exclusive rights free agent signed his one-year tender.
What it means: Asiata is a good No. 3 running back and special teams player. The Vikings still can use a change-of-pace back with pass-catching skills as their No. 2 back.
NT Fred Evans: The 30-year-old unrestricted free agent signed a one-year deal on March 13.
What it means: Evan will continue to provide depth on the nose, which is something he's done with the Vikings since 2007. He's not a front-line talent, but is a wide body with experience. Makes too many silly encroachment penalties while lined up with his head right over the ball, but is a good player to have for depth and emergency situations.
HELLO, NEW FACES
NT Linval Joseph: Agreed to a five-year, $31.5 million deal on March 11, the first day of the signing period.
What it means: Well, the Vikings didn’t have a starting-caliber nose tackle on the roster. They also haven’t had a true nose tackle in top form since Pat Williams’ last dominant season in 2009. Not coincidently, that was the last time the Vikings played shut-down run defense. Priority No. 1 defensively for new coach Mike Zimmer is shut-down run defense. Joseph is a 6-4, 328-pounder who’s only 25 and was a second-round pick in 2010.
1, Veteran quarterback. 2, Starting right defensive end 3, Young, Pat-Williams-sized, true run-stuffing nose tackle
1, Cornerback: The depth chart at corner looks anemic behind Xavier Rhodes, a first-round pick a year ago and a potential star if he can stay healthy. Chris Cook won’t return, which isn’t a bad thing. Josh Robinson started for the first time last year, but didn’t prove himself capable of the job before getting hurt. He might have some value, but even if he were capable of becoming one of the team’s top three corners, the Vikings still need three strong corners to play their popular nickel packages effectively.
Where things stand: Green Bay’s deal with Sam Shields before free agency set the market, and it is a pricey neighborhood at about $10.5 million a year. Day 1 of the free-agent signing period saw two of the top corners disappear. Vontae Davis re-signed with the Colts, while Alterraun Verner, a guy the Vikings coveted, went from Tennessee to Tampa Bay.
2, Left guard: The Vikings have Jeff Baca, a second-year player they took in the sixth round, and Berger in a pinch. Let's not diminish the importance of the offensive line, particularly and offense that depends on running the ball and protecting an older, less mobile QB.
Where things stand: The market isn’t particularly strong, either. Zane Beadles, Shawn Lauvao and Chris Williams were signed during the first two days. Former Viking Geoff Schwartz, a tackle/guard, also agreed to terms with the Giants. Charlie Johnson, even though he didn’t have a strong season a year ago, is looking like a better option with each passing day. Johnson said the Vikings told him to test the market first and then check back if he wants. Neither side has written off the other, but it's clear the Vikings think they can do better or get Johnson more cheaply.
3, Linebacker: Other than strong-side linebacker Chad Greenway, the Vikings really don’t know what they have at linebacker. Unfortunately, the unrestricted market is weak and/or old. The Vikings certainly have interesting prospects at middle linebacker with Cole, who played surprisingly well toward the end of last season; Mauti, a hard-nosed late-round pick a year ago; and Brinkley, who was decent against the run when he played for the Vikings before. At weak-side linebacker, they have another unproven guy in second-year pro Gerald Hodges, a fourth-round pick. In the past, at least, the Vikings didn’t use their weak-side backer a lot because they pulled him in nickel situations. Marvin Mitchell and Erin Henderson played there last year. Henderson was released and Mitchell isn’t expected back.
Where things stand: The unrestricted market doesn't look that great, which is why the team re-signed Brinkley and brought former Ravens linebacker Jameel McClain in for a visit the day before the signing period began. The restricted market, however, has at least one intriguing name. And that name, Bengals middle linebacker Vincent Rey, is very familiar with new Vikings coach Mike Zimmer. Also, Rey was given the lowest tender possible. And since he wasn't drafted, there would be no draft pick compensation for signing him away from Cincinnati. Linebacker also is likely to end up being a priority fairly high in the draft.
Other needs: Depth at defensive end, a change-of-pace running back behind Adrian Peterson, depth at receiver, possibly depth at strong safety.
What it means: Griffen moving into Allen’s role leaves an opening for Griffen’s old role, which would be tough to fill with one guy since Griffen backed up both end positions, rushed from inside in the nickel and could play linebacker in a 3-4. … Two general rules of thumb on players who become available at this time of year: No running backs and nobody over 30. Darren Sproles is both, but if he’s healthy and can be had for the right price, he’s the exception to both rules of thumb. The Saints were still trying to trade him as of Wednesday morning, but could end up releasing him. … The Vikings are OK 1-3 at receiver with Cordarrelle Patterson, Greg Jennings and Jarius Wright. With Jerome Simpson testing the market, the Vikings are shopping at some degree for a receiver. … Strong safety probably is something the Vikings might explore in the draft if one is the best player available. The team probably can’t help but think of what an upgrade next to FS Harrison Smith would look like, but current SS Jamarca Sanford has made a career out of surprising people as an overachieving survivor. Andrew Sendejo also shocked a lot of people by stepping his game up a notch last year.
NFL free agency officially started at 3 p.m. CT. The Vikings have already made a few moves but could be in the hunt for a few more defensive players. Cornerback and defensive tackle are two positions to watch now they’re able to sign unrestricted free agents from other teams.
Here are the latest transactions that have hit the wire to this point, including players the Vikings were interested in and other moves around the NFC North:
*The Colts will sign Ravens defensive tackle Arthur Jones, according to multiple reports. The Vikings made contact with Jones’ representation during the three-day negotiating window.
*The Bears reached a five-year deal with Raiders defensive end Lamarr hunt worth $35 million, according to multiple reports. The Vikings re-signed defensive end Everson Griffen on a five-year, $42.5 million deal.
*The Bears will re-sign linebacker DJ Williams to a one-year deal, according to NFL.com.
Update (3:41 p.m.):
*The Falcons will sign Dolphins defensive tackle Paul Soliai, the team announced. The Vikings reportedly made contact with Soliai's representation during the three-day negotiating window. It's a five-year deal worth $33 million with $14 million guaranteed. Defensive tackles have seen more action in the first hour of free agency than cornerbacks surprisingly.
Update (3:38 p.m.):
*Now we've got some action at cornerback. Colts have re-signed cornerback Vontae Davis, the team announced. It's a reported 4-year deal worth $39 million with $20 million guaranteed.
As more deals are reported, you probably shouldn't feel bad anymore that the Vikings overpaid for Griffen. It's a good year to be a NFL free agent.
Update (4:14 p.m.):
The Jaguars have traded quarterback Blaine Gabbert to the 49ers for a sixth-round pick, according to multiple reports. This has been the biggest surprise so far. The 49ers already have Colin Kapernick and Gabbert will earn $2 million next year.
Maybe Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder does have some trade value after all...
Update (4:46 p.m.):
The Vikings will sign defensive tackle Linval Joseph, according to an NFL source. It's a five-year deal worth $31.5 million, according to ESPN.
Joseph, 25, has spent all four seasons with the Giants. He’s listed at 6-4, 323 pounds and will solidify the nose tackle position on the defensive line. Joseph had 59 combined tackles last season with three sacks and one forced fumble.
The Vikings starting defensive line seems to be set now with Joseph, defensive ends Brian Robison and Everson Griffen and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, who will serve as the three-technique tackle in Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer’s scheme.
Update (6:05 p.m.):
The Vikings will re-sign offensive lineman Joe Berger to a one-year deal, according to an NFL source.
The 10-year veteran has spent the last three seasons with the Vikings primarily as a backup guard and has only made nine starts in purple. He appeared in every game last season and made two starts. The Vikings have a need at left guard and also lacked depth along the offensive line unrestricted free agents Charlie Johnson and J'Marcus Webb.
Update (9:05 p.m.)
Vikings running back Toby Gerhart will sign with the Jaguars on a three-year deal worth $10.5 million with $4.5 million guaranteed, according to multiple sources. He's the first Vikings unrestricted free agent to sign with another team so far. Gerhart wasn't expected to return back to the team with Adrian Peterson serving as the team's lead running back.
The Bucs also agreed to terms with cornerback Alterraun Verner to a four-year deal worth $26.6 million with $14 million guaranteed, according to multiple reports. The Vikings contacted Verner's representation during the three-day negotiating window. The move all but points to the inevitable release of cornerback Darrelle Revis
The three-day negotiating window opened on Saturday and the Vikings focused on two needs on Day 1: defensive end and cornerback.
The Vikings made contact on Titans unrestricted free agent cornerback Alterraun Verner, according to an NFL source. The Jets and Rams are among other teams to reach out to arguably the best cornerback in free agency. Vikings defensive backs coach Jerry Gray was Verner’s defensive coordinator for the last three seasons in Tennessee.
Verner and Xavier Rhodes would be a significant upgrade at cornerback next year, but Verner won’t be cheap. Packers re-signed cornerback Sam Shields on a four-year, $39 million deal. Verner should receive more money than Shields in his deal.
The Vikings also reportedly reached out to Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson, according to ESPN. They were among a number of teams to make contact to Johnson’s representation as he reportedly won’t return to the Bengals. Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer has been Johnson’s defensive coordinator for the last five years in Cincinnati.
We’re still two days away until free agency officially begins, but the Vikings haven’t made much contact to some of the defensive tackles on the market. They only have one serviceable defensive tackle on the roster in Sharrif Floyd and will need a big nose tackle to pair up with Floyd on the defensive line. The Vikings have some interest in defensive tackle Derek Landri, who was cut by the Buccaneers last month, but it hasn’t materialized into an offer.
Landri is free to sign with any team at the moment because he was cut. He can make contact and schedule visits with teams unlike players that will become unrestricted free agents on Tuesday, such as Johnson and Verner, that must wait until after the three-day negotiating window.
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