In anticipation of the start of free agency on March 15th, ESPN has been working overtime on lists and charts that rank the top 50 available free agents, and now Matt Bowen has begun playing matchmaker. Matching each player to teams that he believes they would fit. In his article, Bowen projects Minnesota signing former Arizona Cardinal, Byron Murphy Jr..
In his write up, Bowen says:
“The Vikings would have to make some moves to create more money on the salary cap, but there is a real need for coverage corners in Minnesota to fit the scheme of new defensive coordinator Brian Flores. Only Detroit and Chicago allowed more yards per pass attempt than the Vikes last season (7.3). Murphy’s production took a hit this season — four pass breakups — but he did record four interceptions and 12 pass breakups in 2021. And he has the man-coverage traits to play inside or outside the numbers.”
Despite being the fifth best cornerback on ESPN’s rankings, Murphy’s addition to the Vikings defense would certainly be a welcome one. Taken in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft, Murphy was brought in to contend as a starter opposite Patrick Peterson and he has found a moderate degree of success since then.
Brian Branch would make sense at pick 22 from Alabama. If not, Byron Murphy would be a great addition in FA.
— Thomas Gorski (@ThomasGorski33) February 19, 2023
PFF has him graded as a middling player, but the one area he has consistently produced is in tackling. In his rookie season, Murphy was ranked fifth overall among qualified corners with his 68 solo tackles (differing slightly from ESPN’s data, recording him with 66). The years following, he has averaged 57.5 per season while seeing a downtick this past season due to a back injury sidelining him since the Cardinals matchup against the Chiefs.
Prior to his IR designation, Murphy was seen as Arizona’s leading cornerback, taking the responsibility after Peterson’s left for the Vikings. Now with Peterson’s expiring contract, Murphy may repeat history by again taking his former teammate’s roster spot.
Three Vikings CBs are currently free agents
Peterson isn’t the only Vikings’ cornerback who is a potential leaving free agent. Both Chandon Sullivan and Duke Shelley lack deals keeping them on the team in 2023. Sullivan, an addition from the rival Packers, likely walks without an extension offer. According to PFF, he allowed the second most receptions from the slot and was the fourth most targeted corner. Saying goodbye to the nickel corner would be far easier than it would be for either Peterson or the breakout Shelley.
Shelley, a former Chicago Bear, was let go after under performing in the slot and signed as a depth acquisition for the Vikings before being called to start for the depleted secondary. Ever since he was put in as the outside corner opposite Peterson, Shelley was lights out. Only having played in 11 games, he allowed 20 receptions on 41 targets. If he leaves in free agency, it likely wouldn’t be for a lack of trying from the Vikings’ front office.
If GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah decides not to bring back 34 year old Patrick Peterson, the Vikings would certainly be looking at the best free agent corners available to pair with Shelley. In that respect, landing Murphy would be considered a huge get. Murphy is just 26 years old and won’t require the grace that younger corners like Andrew Booth Jr. or Akayleb Evans would need. Should the Vikings decide it best to focus on corner in free agency, it stands to reason that they would look in a different direction with their first round pick in this years draft.
Like the article? Read more of my writing here!
For More Great Football Content
Follow us on Twitter at @GridironHeroics for more great content. We appreciate you taking time to read our articles. To interact more with our community and keep up to date on the latest in Football news, JOIN OUR FREE FACEBOOK GROUP by CLICKING HERE