For the second to last article, we’ll be going over the cornerbacks. In the early years of the NFL, passing statistics were not nearly as important as a team’s ability to run the ball and conversely shut down the other team’s rushing attack.
In recent years, however, the NFL has shifted to a passing league, placing great importance on the defensive backfield to shut down wide receivers.
In 2015, Minnesota ranked 12th in the league in passing yards allowed, which is a light drop from 2014 when the Vikings were seventh. The Vikings did see an improvement in touchdowns allowed however, moving from 17th in 2014 (26 touchdowns allowed) to 11th with only 24 touchdowns allowed.
Captain Munnerlyn was the Vikings best cornerback in 2015, according to Pro Football Focus. Munnerlyn was given a player grade of 82.3, which ranked him 18th out of the 111 cornerbacks who qualified. Captain is entering the last season of a three-year contract he signed in 2014, and he will make $4.58 million this year. There was a huge jump in Munnerlyn’s play from 2014 to 2015, and he credits that to trusting Mike Zimmer’s system. Look for another jump as he enters the third year in the system. At the young age of 27, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Vikings look to extend Captain sooner rather than later.
Terence Newman was the second best corner on the team in 2015, earning a player grade of 76.3 according to PFF, which ranks him 39th. Newman was a vital piece to the Vikings’ defense last year, as he was able to lock down the corner spot across from Rhodes, allowing Rookie Trae Waynes to be eased into playing time. Terence just signed a one-year, $2.5 million dollar contract to come back for one more season. The veteran was even asked to play safety last season, and it wouldn’t be a stretch to see him get more snaps across from Harrison Smith this year.
Xavier Rhodes is supposed to be the best corner on the Vikings, but he ended the 2015 season with a 70.6 PFF player grade, which ranks him 58th in the league. Rhodes’ play picked up in the second half of the season, and if he can get healthy, he still has the ability to become an elite corner in the NFL. Xavier is entering the fourth season and will make just under $2.5 million this year. The Vikings have the option to pick up a fifth year option on Rhodes, and I fully expect them to do so. I also expect the Vikings to sign him to a contract extension next off-season.
Rookie Trae Waynes did not play many snaps this past season, as the Vikings were being patient and not allowing him to see the field until he was ready. Since he didn’t play enough snaps, he didn’t qualify to be ranked by PFF. However, Waynes was given a player grade of 72.9 for the snaps he did play, which would have ranked him 51st in the league. I was impressed with the limited snaps Waynes played, and I could see a big jump from his play in preseason. I fully expect Trae to grab the starting spot across from Rhodes this season. Entering his second season, Waynes is scheduled to make just under $3 million this year.
Next week’s article will cover the safety spot as well as the kickers. After the roster breakdown is completed, I will be focusing my attention on the draft. If you have any players you would like me to keep an eye on and possible write about, please let me know through my contact information below!