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Roster Breakdown: Assessing the Minnesota Vikings’ cornerbacks

Vikings cornerback

March has finally arrived, and the NFL free agency picture is coming into focus. We still have around two weeks to go, but we have a good guess of who will be available on March 14th. When we look at the Minnesota Vikings, the cornerback position will most likely not be one of great importance in free agency. The Vikings boasted the league’s best defense in 2017, helped in part by solid cornerback play. Despite this, in a pass-heavy NFL, you can never have too many good cornerbacks. As we have all offseason, let’s breakdown the Minnesota Vikings’ cornerbacks:

Xavier Rhodes runs from Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham. Photo by AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King

Xavier Rhodes

Xavier Rhodes has been a stud since he entered the league in 2013. After seeing limited action during his rookie year, Rhodes burst onto the scene as the Vikings’ shutdown corner.

Last season, Rhodes was tasked with some of the NFL’s best receivers, including A.J Green, Julio Jones and Antonio Brown. Rhodes was able to shut down all three, as well as every other wide receiver he faced. His impressive performance in 2017 led to a first-team All-Pro nod, as well as his second straight Pro Bowl appearance.

Xavier Rhodes plays big, fast and physical, which is why the Vikings rewarded him last offseason with a five-year, $70 million contract extension. Rhodes will be with the team all the way through the 2022 season.

Terence Newman

Minnesota Vikings' cornerbacks
Terence Newman breaks up a pass against the Oakland Raiders. Photo by Jerry Holt/StarTribune.com

Although New England Patriots linebacker James Harrison may be the league’s favorite “ageless wonder”, Terence Newman has quietly been balling for the Vikings, even at age 38. The 15-year veteran has performed well the last few years in Mike Zimmer’s defense. He isn’t the Pro-Bowl caliber player he once was with the Dallas Cowboys, but Newman still shows excellent coverage skills. Quarterbacks averaged a 76.7 passer rating when throwing at Newman, per Pro Football Focus.

Terence Newman plans on defying Father Time again in 2018, but it is uncertain which team he will play for. His contract with the Vikings just expired, allowing him to become a free agent. Newman has expressed interest in playing one last season, but few teams are willing to sign a soon-to-be 39 year-old cornerback.

Trae Waynes

Coming out of Michigan State, Trae Waynes was seen as the league’s next Richard Sherman. Waynes has impressive speed and size and excelled in press coverage in college. So far, however, Waynes hasn’t lived up to his potential. He is not the shutdown cornerback that the Vikings hoped for but is still a solid starting cornerback.

Waynes slowly worked his way into the Vikings’ starting lineup, replacing Terence Newman. He has had his flashes of talent, but costly penalties have put a damper on his young career. 2018 is the last season on Waynes’ rookie contract, so the Vikings will need to make a decision on his future soon.

Notable Backups

Minnesota Vikings' cornerbacks
Mackensie Alexander. Photo from vikings.com

Mackensie Alexander was drafted in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Originally picked to challenge Waynes, Alexander has struggled to get on the field. He has not started a single game so far in his career, and usually only plays a handful of snaps each game. With the departure of Terence Newman, it will be interesting to see if Alexander finally steps up.

Marcus Sherels is another cornerback that has struggled to find playing time. He has not started a game at cornerback since 2013 and is mainly used as a punt returner. Turning 30 years old, it is unlikely he will be with the Vikings next season.

What to Expect

The Minnesota Vikings’ cornerbacks played extremely well in 2017. However, the Vikings have three players due to hit the free agent market in the next two years. So, it may be wise for the team to add depth at the cornerback position. Finding a low-cost veteran in free agency or selecting a cornerback with a mid-round pick in the draft would be the most likely scenarios this offseason. A talented cornerback to play across from Xavier Rhodes and supplant Trae Waynes would put the Vikings’ secondary over the top.

Featured image by cover32.com

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