MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings have been looking for a tough, play-making defensive back to cover slot receivers ever since they parted ways with beloved veteran Antoine Winfield before last season. Milt Pappas Jersey . Captain Munnerlyn is ready to fill those shoes. The Vikings agreed to terms on a three-year deal with the free agent cornerback on Thursday, continuing the teams aggressive pursuit of defensive help in free agency. Munnerlyn played the first five seasons of his career for the Carolina Panthers, where he returned five of his seven interceptions for touchdowns. "We have a new coaching staff in Minnesota and Im excited to get to work with these guys," Munnerlyn told The Associated Press. After signing a one-year, $1.1 million deal with the Panthers last year, Munnerlyn posted career highs with 74 tackles and 3 1/2 sacks. He also returned both of his interceptions for touchdowns and parlayed that into a deal that could be worth as much as $15 million with the Vikings. Munnerlyn, who will turn 26 next month, has scored four defensive TDs in the last two years. He was a seventh-round draft choice after leaving South Carolina after his junior season, and the 5-foot-8, 165-pound Munnerlyn has been proving that he belongs ever since. "Everybody looks at my size and says, Oh man, he cant play. Hes too short to play outside corner, or hes too short to do this," Munnerlyn said in a conference call later Thursday. "Thats the biggest key with me, man. I was just trying to go out there and prove I can be an every-down corner, that I can make plays and bring toughness to a team." Winfield knows a thing or two about that. The diminutive cornerback spent nine seasons with the Vikings, establishing himself as one of the hardest-hitting defensive backs in the league. Munnerlyn said early in his career his coaches showed him game tape of Winfield. "I kind of stole some of his game and brought it to my game," Munnerlyn said. "I dont hit as hard as he does. He can really bring it when he tackles. But I try to go out there and make the tackles and make plays just like him." The Vikings desperately needed another veteran cornerback to add to a young, thin defensive backfield. After cutting Winfield last summer, the Vikings moved Josh Robinson from outside to the slot cornerback. Robinson struggled mightily in the role and former second-round draft choice Chris Cook proved unreliable and unremarkable on the outside. Cook is a free agent. Munnerlyn said Vikings coaches plan to start him on the outside opposite promising youngster Xavier Rhodes, then move him inside in nickel packages on passing downs. He was a part of the second-ranked defence in the league last season under Ron Rivera. He said he saw similarities to the system new Vikings coach Mike Zimmer will employ in Minnesota. "Hes a gritty, tough player and he can play all over the place -- cornerback, nickel or inside," Saints quarterback Drew Brees said last season. "Hes good in pressure and you can tell hes a headsy, smart player. Anytime you are playing against those guys its kind of like the Ronde Barbers of the world where you know there is a level of intelligence. You want to know where he is on the field." The Vikings wanted to do a longer-term deal with Munnerlyn, but Munnerlyn pressed for a three-year contract to give him one more shot at a big payday. "To get another contract before Im 30, that was the key," Munnerlyn said. "Just to go out here for three years and see if I can win them over a little bit more, get an extension after year two or something. Just try to go out here and make plays and win games." Munnerlyn is the latest big move in a series of them to kick off free agency for the Vikings. They re-signed defensive end Everson Griffen with $20 million in guaranteed money and signed defensive tackle Linval Joseph away from the New York Giants with a five-year deal that could be worth $31.5 million. They also made two smaller deals on Thursday, bringing back reserve defensive tackle Fred Evans and signing former Chargers cornerback Derek Cox to one-year deals. All the moves are aimed at bolstering a defence that was 31st in the league last year. "Im sure with these signings and with these people they (brought) in well ranked in the top 10," Munnerlyn said. Luis Aparicio Jersey . -- Henry Josey watched helplessly from the sideline last fall, rehabbing from a serious knee injury, while Missouri was getting pushed around in its first SEC season. Custom Baltimore Orioles Jerseys . Argentina, who have yet to beat New Zealand in 17 meetings, rocked the All Blacks with an early converted try to backrower Juan Manuel Leguizamon and led 7-0 after five minutes. But Smiths double in the 23rd and 26th minutes - when Argentina was reduced to 14 men by the sin-binning of hooker Eusebio Guinazu - turned the tide of the match and set up New Zealands third straight Championship win.(SportsNetwork.com) - The Jacksonville Jaguars may indeed be a 2-10 football team, but to this weekends opponent - the Houston Texans - theyve got definite world-beating potential. Indeed, even though the Jaguars are fifth from the bottom of the league in both points allowed (27.4 per game) and yards allowed (383.2 per week), Texans coach Bill OBrien is preaching respect. Jacksonville comes into Week 14 after a come-from-behind defeat of the New York Giants in a game it had trailed by 18 points at halftime, and fresh off a 2013 season in which it scored a pair of victories over the Texans - then coached by Gary Kubiak - as part of a late-season three-game win streak. I dont care what (Jacksonvilles) record is, OBrien said. I really dont. Its not coach-speak. Its the truth. This team is a talented team, well- coached. Problem is, the Jaguars dont score much. In fact, theyd only exceeded 20 points twice in 11 games before the defeat of the Giants saw them rack up 22 in the final 30 minutes - including a pair of defensive touchdowns. Against Houston and MVP candidate J.J. Watt, it wont be an easy repeat. The Texans have allowed just 23 points in their last two road games, which have yielded victories over Cleveland and Tennessee. Watt had two sacks in the 45-21 dousing of the Titans to bring his total to 11 1/2 for the season, and he caught a touchdown pass - his third of the season - while lined up in a goal-line formation. One of his would-be foes on Sunday, Jacksonville right tackle Austin Pasztor, wont play after suffering a ruptured right hamstring. Watt has faced the Jaguars six times and has 5 1/2 sacks. On the mend for Houstons defense is cornerback Kareem Jackson, whos questionable with a knee injury; and rookie linebacker Jadeveon Clowney, whos played just four games thanks to illness and myriad injuries. Hes also questionable this week with a knee problem. The No. 1 overall draft pick has seven tackles and no sacks in limited action, but he maintains the full faith and confidence of the coaching staff, according to OBrien. I want to be real clear about this with him as it relates to us here and the Houston Texans, OBrien said. We think very highly of him. We know that he is going to be a really good player. He has been unlucky. He is a good kid. He is a good teammate and he is working hard to get back on the field. If he plays, hell aim for the inaugural sack against the player selected two picks after him, Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles, whos been sacked 34 times overall and seven times last week. In spite of the pressure, the win over the Giants was a watershed for Bortles, who completed his first full game with no interceptions while amassing 194 yards passing, rushing for 68 and throwing a TD pass. Bortles led an 11-play, 55-yard drive that yielded the winning field goal with 28 seconds to go. You could just see him wanting to take over the game, and his mentality, Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said. He didnt slide. When we needed a couple of extra yards, he went for it. Thats wwhat the guys are gravitating toward - his competitiveness, his focus and his taking advantage of opportunities. Don Baylor Jersey. His quarterback counterpart, Houstons Ryan Fitzpatrick, is also trying to keep momentum. The Harvard University product was benched for Ryan Mallett in early November, but regained the No. 1 status when Mallett was lost for the season with a torn pectoral muscle. He completed 24-of-33 passes for 358 yards and threw six touchdowns in the rout of Tennessee, six days after turning 32. Prior to losing his starting role, he had an 87.1 passer rating, 11 TD passes and eight interceptions. Maybe it helped Fitz to take a step back, OBrien said. You never want to see anybody get hurt like Mallett did, but maybe it helped Fitz to see how the offense was operated and he went in there and did a good job. The trick is, can we do it again? The Texans began the season with two straight wins, but had gone 3-6 over nine subsequent games before facing the Titans. Theyre still mathematically in the divisional title race, but can be officially excluded with a loss to Jacksonville and win by Indianapolis, which leads the AFC South. The 45 points against Tennessee were a franchise record. Running back Arian Foster had 105 yards on the ground and Fitzpatrick connected with DeAndre Hopkins nine times for 238 yards and two touchdowns - just a week after scoring a season-low 13 points against Cincinnati. It comes down to consistency, OBrien said. Its really important. Its vitally important to go out there and have a great week of practice and I think thats what we did last week. Guys were really detailed and focused. Thats what we have to do this week again. WHAT TO WATCH FOR Where Art Thou, 99? A matchup with a phenomenon like Watt would have been difficult enough if the Jaguars had Pasztor in his typical place as the starting right tackle. But with him out, the primary responsibility for contending with Watt falls to either Josh Wells, a rookie free agent; or Sam Young, a fifth-year player whos been inactive for the last six weeks. Either way, Bortles might want to work hard on quick releases this week. Make Ryan Be Ryan Though Fitzpatrick had a dominant - and mistake-free - game last week, its hardly a consensus view that the showing against a poor pass defense indicates a change from a career speckled with inconsistency. The Jaguars 37 sacks are third-best in the NFL and the defense has forced eight fumbles in two games. Another effort like that could reveal more of the true Fitzpatrick under center. OVERALL ANALYSIS Itd be easy to hear OBrien talk about how legitimate a team the Jaguars are, then consider the fact that theyre home and find enough reason to go ahead and pick them. But its not that simple. The Texans still have the best player on the field in Watt, and more ammo on offense against a team thats got few true weapons and an inconsistent rookie quarterback. A surprise is possible, but not at all likely. Sports Network predicted outcome: Texans 31, Jaguars 23 ' ' '
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Dec 07, 2019
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