Vikings position outlook: Defensive backs

MINNEAPOLIS -- We're continuing our position-by-position look at the Minnesota Vikings' roster this morning, with a look at the team's secondary:


2015 free agents: Mistral Raymond

The good: The Vikings gambled on the development of a young secondary in 2014, and got impressive returns in a couple of key spots -- perhaps none bigger than right cornerback. Xavier Rhodes played like a shutdown corner at the end of the year, traveling across the field with players like Calvin Johnson, Mike Wallace and Alshon Jeffery. He seemed to be closer to finding a balance between aggressive coverage techniques and ones that will draw a penalty, and he should only improve in 2015. The Vikings also got a full year out of Harrison Smith, who missed half of 2013 with a turf toe injury, and Smith might have been the team's best defensive player. He was the only player in the league to finish with at least three sacks and three interceptions, and ended the year tied for third in the league with five interceptions. Smith ran one back for a touchdown, played 1,015 snaps and stood out as one of the Vikings' biggest Pro Bowl snubs.

The bad: The Vikings didn't everything they hoped they'd get from Captain Munnerlyn, who called 2014 his worst year in the NFL after signing a three-year, $10.25 million deal in March. Munnerlyn started in the Vikings' defense in addition to playing slot cornerback, and it seems likely the Vikings will try to make him purely a slot corner in 2015. That plan would require them to add another corner or hope for more development from Josh Robinson, who showed improvement in 2014 but still was inconsistent with his press technique. Robinson played outside in the Vikings' nickel package, and probably had his longest day on Nov. 16 in Chicago, when Bears quarterback Jay Cutler targeted him 15 times.

The money -- 2015 salary-cap numbers: Munnerlyn ($4.33 million), Smith ($2.27 million), Rhodes ($2.13 million), Robinson ($1.75 million), Robert Blanton ($1.63 million), Marcus Sherels ($1.25 million), Andrew Sendejo ($1.07 million), Demarcus Van Dyke ($670,000), Shaun Prater ($660,000), Antone Exum ($538,947), Jabari Price ($525,455), Ahmad Dixon ($510,000). The Vikings will have to make a number of decisions on young players by the end of next season. They'll have to determine whether to pick up Smith's fifth-year option by May -- it seems likely they'll do so -- and a number of players who have seen significant playing time over the last two years (Robinson, Blanton, Sherels and Sendejo) will be free agents after 2015. Munnerlyn has $1 million of his 2015 base salary currently guaranteed against injury; the amount will become fully guaranteed on the third day of the new league year. He's said he needs to do a better job of playing within Mike Zimmer's system, and if he doesn't produce better in 2015, it's unlikely he'd be around at his $4.58 million cap number in 2016.

Draft priority: High. Whether it's another big cornerback, or a dynamic safety who can upgrade the back end of the Vikings' defense next to Smith, the Vikings figure to address the secondary in some way or another. Exum might get a chance to compete at safety after playing mostly special teams in 2014, but if a big-time safety like Alabama's Landon Collins is available at No. 11, the Vikings might look into such an option.