Byron Murphy Jr. was one of the cornerbacks who succeeded Patrick Peterson in Arizona. He could assume Peterson's old position and number in Minnesota, too.
The Vikings concluded a busy day of moves before the start of free agency by agreeing to a two-year deal with the former Cardinals cornerback on Tuesday night, adding the 25-year-old to new defensive coordinator Brian Flores' scheme.
The deal, which a league source said is expected to be worth around $22 million, gives the Vikings an experienced corner to go with a group of young players after Peterson, the leader of the cornerback group for the past two seasons, announced on Monday he will sign with the Steelers. Cameron Dantzler, who started nine games at corner last season, was waived last week.
Adding Murphy came after the Vikings agreed to new deals on Tuesday with four of their own pending free agents: center Garrett Bradbury, long snapper Andrew DePaola, kicker Greg Joseph and backup quarterback Nick Mullens. Bradbury and DePaola got three-year deals, Mullen agreed to a two-year deal, and Joseph got a one-year contract.
The Vikings have to be under the salary cap by 3 p.m. Wednesday in order to make free-agent signings official. They might need to make several moves to put themselves in good cap position for the start of the league year, though they were able to defer $16 million from their 2023 books by converting quarterback Kirk Cousins' $20 million roster bonus to a signing bonus on Tuesday, according to a league source.
The Vikings' cap constraints meant they had to be selective in their free agent additions. Murphy, like former Saints defensive end Marcus Davenport, gives them another defender in his mid-20s who could provide good value if he shows he's beyond the injury that bothered him last season.
Murphy played nine games last season while dealing with a back injury, but had four interceptions and 12 passes defensed in 2021. He played 22.3% of his coverage snaps in man schemes last season, according to Pro Football Focus, and was the first pick of the second round in 2019 because of the man coverage skills he showed in college at Washington.
The Vikings will hope Murphy is recovered and ready to be a key component of Flores' defense, while they try to get second-year players Akayleb Evans and Andrew Booth ready to return from injuries and play bigger roles in the defense. Coach Kevin O'Connell said last week that Booth is expected to be ready for training camp after recovering from a torn meniscus, while Evans will try to return from the three concussions he suffered in 2022.
Murphy is the third external free agent the Vikings acquired, following Davenport and former Ravens tight end Josh Oliver, who got a three-year deal on Monday.
Bradbury, the highest-drafted center in franchise history at 18th overall in 2019 out of North Carolina State, was scheduled to become a free agent Wednesday after the team declined a $16 million fifth-year option last year in his rookie contract. But following a rebound season, he'll stay on a three-year deal worth up to $15.75 million, according to NFL Media.
Bradbury played well through 12 starts before a lower-back injury led to a five-game absence. After returning for the 31-24 NFC wild-card playoff loss to the Giants, Bradbury said he wanted to sign a new deal with the Vikings and told O'Connell: "This is the most fun year I've had" in Minnesota.
Bradbury's return ensures the Vikings will have all five starting offensive linemen under contract through at least next season; left guard Ezra Cleveland is a free agent in 2024. The Vikings' pending free agents this week include reserve offensive linemen Austin Schlottmann, who was the backup center last year, and tackle Oli Udoh.
Joseph is coming off a clutch season in which he made 22 of 23 field goals inside the 50-yard line. While he was four of 10 from beyond 50 yards, he set the franchise record with a game-winning, 61-yard kick in the Dec. 24 win against the Giants. Joseph also had game-winning kicks against the Saints, Commanders, Bills and Colts.
DePaola, an NFL journeyman who turns 36 in July, was a first-time Pro Bowl and All-Pro selection as a long snapper last season.
Staff writer Andrew Krammer contributed reporting.