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With the NFL Scouting Combine in the rearview mirror, 2020 free agency is just around the corner. That period will officially begin at 3 p.m. (CT) on March 18 when the new league year begins.

Throughout the week, Eric Smith, Lindsey Young and I will continue diving into Minnesota’s current roster status by position. We’ll offer a refresher on which Vikings are scheduled to become free agents, where potential needs might be and note players from other teams that are set to become free agents.

Up next? The cornerbacks …

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2019 Stats (tackles are team stats)

Boyd: 16 games; 12 tackles (11 solo), 2 tackles for loss, 1 pass breakup; team-high 11 special teams tackles

Fields: 1 game; no stats

Hall: spent part of 2019 on Chargers practice squad

Hill: 8 games (1 start); 12 tackles, 1 pass breakup; 3 special teams tackles

Hughes: 14 games (3 starts); 43 tackles (39 solo), 1 tackle for loss, 1 interception, 11 pass breakups, 2 forced fumbles; 2 special teams tackles; 7.4 yards per punt return

Meadors: 2 games; 2 tackles

Rhodes: 15 games (15 starts); 63 tackles (54 solo), 4 tackles for loss, 8 pass breakups, 1 forced fumble

Sayles (with CFL’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers): 18 games, 64 tackles, 3 interceptions, 3 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries; returned a punt he blocked 9 yards for a touchdown on Aug. 15 and a fumble he forced 24 yards for a score on Oct. 19

Hughes has shown considerable potential but has also suffered tough luck. A torn ACL ended Hughes’ promising rookie season and forced a grueling rehab a year ago, and an injury that he sustained in Week 17 landed him on injured reserve before the playoffs. Rhodes is not far from being named an All-Pro by the Associated Press, but his 2019 campaign was a departure from that level, causing many to speculate on his 2020 status. Hill’s second season was stunted by a pair of four-game suspensions out of the gate. Boyd, Hill’s former college teammate at Texas, showed promise in his rookie season. Fields, Hall, Meadors and Sayles will try to make the most of their opportunities this offseason to impress new position coaches.

SCHEDULED TO BECOME FREE AGENTS:

Mackensie Alexander:

A second-round pick in 2016, Alexander is at the end of his rookie contract. He transitioned from playing on the outside at Clemson to eventually embracing the top nickel cornerback position for the Vikings, making 10 starts the past two seasons. He’s totaled 84 of his 109 career tackles and all 4.5 of his career sacks, as well as 16 of 26 passes defensed since 2018. Alexander missed three games in the 2019 regular season and both of Minnesota’s playoff games because of injuries.

Marcus Sherels:

Known more for his punt returning prowess, the reserve cornerback didn’t record any defensive stats in 2019. The season was a weird one for Sherels, to say the least. After spending the rest of the decade with the Vikings, he signed with the Saints in free agency. Sherels never played for New Orleans, who cut him on Sept. 1. Three weeks later, Sherels re-signed with Minnesota, but he was cut Oct. 22 and joined Miami. After five games with the Dolphins, he was waived in mid-December. The Vikings re-re-signed him on Jan. 3, 2020. Sherels played against the Saints in the Wild Card round. He uncharacteristically struggled the following week, committing two fumbles (one lost) on punt returns at San Francisco.

Trae Waynes:

The 11th overall pick of the 2015 NFL Draft, Waynes has started 53 of 74 regular-season games for the Vikings, including all 44 he’s played the past three seasons. The Vikings were able to use a club option on the first-round selection to make his rookie contract last five seasons, but it is now set to expire. Waynes has totaled 251 tackles, 1.0 sack, nine tackles for loss, seven interceptions, 51 passes defensed, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.

POTENTIAL NEED:

The cornerback position could experience significant changes this offseason. Numerous draft pundits project that the Vikings will invest their first-round selection in a corner to help fill potential voids. With several years of experience logged, Minnesota knows exactly what it has in cornerbacks that are set to become free agents, compared to those that might hit the market on other teams. The position is important in Head Coach Mike Zimmer’s defense, both in pass coverage and run support. Alligator-arming a tackle, for instance, is highly discouraged.

The Vikings needs could involve a starter on the outside (if Waynes leaves), a virtual starter in the slot (if Alexander, who played more than 500 snaps in each of the past two seasons, departs) or both. Hughes has logged experience at both positions over the course of his first two seasons.

WHO’S POTENTIALLY OUT THERE:

NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal and Chris Wesseling teamed up again this year to rate their top 101 potential free agents.

The following cornerbacks are listed in order of their overall rankings, along with their 2019 teams: 8. Byron Jones (DAL), 24. Chris Harris, Jr. (DEN), 37. James Bradberry (CAR), 49. Logan Ryan (TEN), 50. Kendall Fuller (KC), 56. Trae Waynes (MIN), 58. Bradley Roby (HOU), 68. Darqueze Dennard (CIN), 70. Eli Apple (NO), 72. Ronald Darby (PHI), 83. Jimmy Smith (BAL), 90. Bashaud Breeland (KC), 91. Prince Amukamara (CHI), 92. Jalen Mills (PHI) and 96. Daryl Worley (OAK)

Other cornerbacks set to become free agents that didn’t crack the top 101 are as follows (listed in order of 2019 team): Blidi Wreh-Wilson (ATL), Levi Wallaceand Kevin Johnson (BUF), Ross Cockrell and Javien Elliott (CAR), Anthony Brown (DAL), Davontae Harris (DEN), Rashaan Melvin (DET), Tramon Williams and Chandon Sullivan* (GB), Johnathan Joseph (HOU), Morris Claiborne (KC), Michael Davis (LAC), Aqib Talib (MIA), P.J. Williams (NO), Grant Haley (NYG), Maurice Canady, Brian Poole and Arthur Maulet* (NYJ), Artie Burns and Mike Hilton* (PIT), Jason Verrett (SF), Akeem King (SEA), Tramaine Brock and LeShaun Sims (TEN), Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Aaron Colvin (WAS)

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There’s a bevy of regular-season and Super Bowl experience set to hit the market among players in the top 101 and those that didn’t crack the list. Nine of the 14 players in the top 101 have been part of at least one team that has claimed a Lombardi Trophy. Ryan was part of two Super Bowl wins in New England.

Several names in the “others” category also will ring a bell for many Vikings fans. Tramon Williams, who will turn 37 on March 16, has appeared in 199 games, including 159 with Green Bay, and recorded 34 interceptions. Johnathan Joseph, who will turn 36 in April, has played in 200 games, totaling 31 career interceptions.

Brock, a former Golden Gopher, played 11 games for the Vikings in 2017 and has started 56 of his 117 appearances.

Talib, 34, is a five-time Pro Bowler who was part of Denver’s win in Super Bowl 50. He has started 134 of 148 games and has 35 career interceptions. Rodgers-Cromartie will be 34 in April. He has recorded 30 picks and made two Pro Bowls.

Experience can come at a high premium during free agency, and the Vikings placement against the salary cap is well-documented.

If the Vikings don’t replace a departure with a veteran through free agency, it could mean they believe a young player is ready for the next step or the team likes the look of a draft-eligible player, which would allow them to allocate financials elsewhere.

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The Minnesota Vikings are one of 12 teams around the NFL to have never ended a season by raising the Vince Lombardi trophy in a sea of confetti.
Since their very first season in 1961, the Minnesota Vikings have been lucky enough to appear in a total of four Super Bowls. Unfortunately, the Vikings were never on the winning end of these games and the franchise is still searching for their very first Super Bowl victory.

Minnesota is actually one of 12 teams around the NFL to have never won a Super Bowl. This group, that accounts for 37.5 percent of the teams in the league, includes the Vikings, Atlanta Falcons, Arizona Cardinals, Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Los Angeles Chargers, and Tennessee Titans.

Of this group, The Draft Network’s Brad Kelly believes that Minnesota has the best chance to come out of the upcoming 2019 NFL season with their first-ever Super Bowl victory.

“(Minnesota’s) success will seemingly come down to the play of Kirk Cousins, but he should become more comfortable in his second year with the franchise. Their path to a top seed is more clear than the others, as the NFC North winning Bears seemed destined to regress next season.

With added depth to the offensive line, Minnesota’s roster seemingly has no clear weakness. That could be just enough to finally put them over the top.”

While this is a glowing endorsement of the Vikings heading into 2019, let’s not pretend like the offensive line is automatically fixed because the team added some players during the offseason who could potentially improve the performance of the unit.

As Minnesota has learned in the past (see Matt Kalil, Alex Boone, T.J. Clemmings, etc.), more offensive line depth doesn’t always translate into better offensive line play. So to say that the Vikings have no clear weaknesses going into 2019 seems a bit far fetched.

Still, Minnesota does appear to have as good a shot to win the Super Bowl next season as any of the other teams who have yet to get a win in the big game.

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Does this mean the Vikings are being viewed as a Super Bowl contender in 2019? Not necessarily, but it does indicate that not many would be surprised if Minnesota actually did end next season with a championship.

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MINNEAPOLIS — Sloppy play, penalties and injuries hurt the Vikings in a 14-10 preseason loss to the Jaguars on Saturday, and the injuries might have a lasting effect as the team prepares for Week 1.

Minnesota had six players leave the game with injuries and not return. Three players were carted off: defensive end Ade Aruna (knee), offensive lineman Cedrick Lang (lower leg) and fullback Johnny Stanton (lower leg).

Cornerback Mackensie Alexander suffered an ankle injury in the first quarter and was listed as questionable to return. Center Josh Andrews injured his ankle at the beginning of the third quarter on an incomplete pass and was ruled out for the remainder of the game. After rookie Jeff Badet caught a 13-yard pass from Kyle Sloter in the fourth quarter, the receiver took a vicious hit to the head that put him in the concussion protocol.

A handful of these injuries appear to be serious, as coach Mike Zimmer said he expects that several players will be lost for the season. He noted postgame that Lang will undergo surgery.

“The list was so long I don’t remember the exact number, so I’ll just wait until we put them on IR,” Zimmer said.

Outside of Alexander, many of the players injured Saturday were fighting for a roster spot.

“Yeah I feel bad for those guys because they come in here and work their rear ends off,” Zimmer said. “We had a huge number of injuries today, you never want your guys to get injured and it was kind of freaky things; we get rolled up on, it was unfortunate things today opposed to, you know [Jeff] Badet got hit in the head.”

Minnesota entered Saturday down four starters on the offensive line: Mike Remmers (ankle), Rashod Hill (ankle), Pat Elflein (PUP) and Nick Easton (IR — neck).

Aviante Collins started in place of Hill before moving to left tackle and subsequently left guard. Cornelius Edison, who started the game at center, had to come back in after Andrews got hurt and played almost a full game.

Players have cited the “next man up” mentality throughout training camp, as injuries have forced the Vikings to continue to shuffle personnel across all positions except left tackle. Building continuity while continually adjusting for new personnel has proved to be the most challenging part of the process.

“We have to get on the stick here pretty quick,” Zimmer said. “I think Remmers will be back next week, which will be good. I think Elflein has a chance to get back here pretty soon. That will help. I don’t know about Rashod yet, so we’ll see. It’s tough, but we’re not the only ones in the league to be having these issues, I’m sure. We just have a few more than we should have at this point in time. That’s life.”

Playing behind a rotating offensive line is something quarterback Kirk Cousins has grown used to over the years. Injuries in Washington in 2017 forced the Redskins to use 36 offensive line combinations.

“You learn to roll with the punches in this league,” Cousins said. “You can’t start to say, ‘Well, that’s not how we drew it up, so now we’re not going to plan on doing great things,’ so you just play and take whatever’s thrown at you, and that’s the only way you have a chance to have success. I think that the players who have come in in place of some of our starting offensive linemen have done a good job and have been ready to play. Coach Flip is doing a really good job with the game plan and playcalling to accentuate our strengths and try to protect us from some of our weaknesses, and that’s what a great playcaller does.”

In his second game with Minnesota, Cousins went 3-of-8 for 12 yards and finished with a 45.8 passer rating. A far cry from his crisp performance in Minnesota’s preseason opener in Denver, Cousins played four series to start the game, with his closest drive ending at Jacksonville’s 27-yard line, which forced the Vikings to settle for a 44-yard field goal.

Cousins had his day end after one series to open the second quarter following an incomplete pass to Stefon Diggs on third down. As a team, Minnesota’s offense finished Saturday 0-for-12 on third down.

“I think he can play a lot better,” Zimmer said of Cousins.

Added Cousins: “Probably not the worst thing in the long run to realize we’ve got a lot of work to do. If you want to call it a wake-up call, that’s fine, but it’ll get us ready to go when we get back on Monday.”

Running back Latavius Murray’s struggles with ball security were uncharacteristic for a player who fumbled eight times over the first four years of his career and lost only two. Murray fumbled two times on his first five carries.

The lone bright spot on offense centered around the competition for the No. 3 running back spot. Mike Boone rushed 13 times for 91 yards and a touchdown, rebounding after an up-and-down outing last week in Denver.

“To be honest with you, I’m glad we didn’t win that game today because we didn’t deserve to win,” Zimmer said. “We didn’t play well enough, and we’re going to get back to work and get going here.”