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Breaking news and year-round coverage of the NFL's Minnesota Vikings. Access Vikings is the Star Tribune's blog covering team news, rumors, games and all things purple.

A look at the defensive backs heading into Vikings training camp

Leading up to the start of training camp on Friday, we will set the stage for Vikings camp by taking a look at where things stand at each position group. Today, we will finish off the series with cornerbacks and safeties.

A QUICK REFRESHER: Where do we begin? The Vikings re-signed safety Andrew Sendejo and cornerbacks Terence Newman and Marcus Sherels. They inked free-agent safety Michael Griffin and corner Melvin White. They drafted Clemson defensive backs Mackensie Alexander and Jayron Kearse. And they made Harrison Smith the NFL’s highest-paid safety. The flurry of activity helped give the Vikings their deepest secondary in years.

HOT CAMP STORYLINE: For the third straight year of the Mike Zimmer era, the Vikings head down to Mankato with very little clarity at the spot next to Smith. Sendejo, last year’s starting strong safety, signed a four-year deal to return and lined up next to Smith during the spring. Griffin, several years removed from his last Pro Bowl appearance with the Titans, received a one-year contract with just $750,000 guaranteed. And the Vikings still have relative unknowns in the athletic but inconsistent Antone Exum and Anthony Harris, a late-season practice-squad promotion in 2015. Zimmer probably won’t declare a winner in this wide-open competition until after the preseason, as was the case in both 2014 and 2015.

TOP BATTLE TO WATCH: Cornerback Trae Waynes, the team’s top pick in 2015, played sparingly as a rookie because Newman refused to relinquish his starting gig in his first season in Minnesota. No, that is not a reason to worry about Waynes. That being said, Waynes, who played pretty well in some late-season cameos, is not a lock to be in the starting lineup at the start of this season. He is going to have to unseat Newman, who is back on another one-year deal. This battle is going to be a fun one to watch.

POSSIBLY IN DANGER: Nickel cornerback Captain Munnerlyn had a nice bounce-back season in his second year in Minnesota. What did he earn for his troubles? The Vikings used their second-round pick to draft his possible replacement. While it seems more likely that Alexander, who has a remarkable backstory, will take over for Munnerlyn when the veteran’s contract expires after this season, there is a chance it could happen sooner than expected. Cutting Munnerlyn would save the Vikings $4.25 million, but my imaginary money is on Munnerlyn holding off the rookie in 2016.

BREAKOUT CANDIDATE: Xavier Rhodes has all the tools needed to become one of the NFL’s top cover men. But the fourth-year cornerback has yet to put it all together. After a promising second season in 2014, he got off to a slow start in 2015 before stabilizing in the season’s second half. Entering the fourth year of his five-year rookie contract, Rhodes can make himself a lot of money by finally taking the leap in this pivotal season.

EARLY ROSTER BREAKDOWN:

  • On the 90-man roster: 10 cornerbacks, 6 safeties
  • Projected to make the 53-man: 5-6 corners, 4-5 safeties
  • Roster locks: 5 (Smith, Sendejo, Alexander, Rhodes, Waynes)
  • Good bets: 4 (Munnerlyn, Newman, Sherels, Griffin)
  • On the bubble: 5 (CB Jabari Price, White, Exum, Harris, Kearse)
  • Longshots: 2 (CB Keith Baxter, CB Tre Roberson)

Kevin Williams signs one-day contract to officially retire with Vikings

The Vikings announced this afternoon that Kevin Williams, a member of the 50 greatest Vikings squad, signed a one-day contract with the team and will officially retire as a member of the Vikings on Thursday.

Williams, who played for the Vikings from 2003 to 2013, was selected to six Pro Bowls and was named an All-Pro five times during his decade with the Vikings. Williams, the ninth overall pick in the 2003 draft, started 171 career games with the Vikings, a franchise mark for defensive tackles. And Williams ranks eighth in Vikings history with 60 sacks.

“Kevin was one of the most respected players in Vikings history by his teammates and by opponents,” GM Rick Spielman said in a statement. “He set a high standard for himself and led by example instead of words. We thank him for everything he gave the Vikings and the legacy he leaves.”

Added Vikings owner Zygi Wilf: “Kevin Williams was an established team leader when we bought the Vikings and his presence was crucial to our success. His consistency and durability makes him a Viking for the ages. We wish Kevin and his family all the best as they enjoy retirement.”

Williams, who was not re-signed after current coach Mike Zimmer arrived in 2014, played for the Seahawks in 2014 and the Saints in 2015. But when it was time for Williams to hang up his cleats, he wanted to do it here.

“I had a great time with the Vikings and appreciate them giving me a chance,” the 35-year-old said in a statement. “They drafted a small town kid from Arkansas and the organization, the city, the whole state really, helped raise me into a man. I appreciate them for that and look forward to coming back and doing some things with the team.

“My family loved it in Minnesota and will be back a lot. I really thank the Wilf Family and the McCombs Family for all they did for me. I had some great coaches, got to line up with some great players and we did a lot of good things. I look back on that line we had with Pat [Williams], Jared [Allen], Ray [Edwards], [Brian Robison] and Fred [Evans]. I hope we set a standard for how you do things up front.”