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Which Minnesota Vikings stay and which are gone?

The wooing and cooing of free agency begins today. Nothing is certain until Thursday, but promise rings are being exchanged today. As it pertains to the Minnesota Vikings, the question for the first time in years is who stays and who goes?

Officially, the Minnesota Vikings and the other 31 teams start the annual Black Friday-style spending purge beginning Thursday (with whispering sweet nothings officially starting today) that, within less than a week, will result in more than $1 billion in contract money being thrown out.

Typically, the Vikings have been more observers than drunken skinny-dipping cannonball types in the free agent pool – both in terms of signing players and letting players with big-time future potential leave as free agents. The Vikings tend to lock up the guys they see as long-term solutions before they get to free agency. They haven’t had a compensatory pick since 2012 and that was used on wide receiver Greg Childs, who tore both knees at the same time at Family Night in Mankato his rookie season. He never played a game for the Vikings.

This year, the Vikings have allowed several of their key players of the last four (or more) seasons to hit the free agent market. The only question remaining is who stays and who goes?

Our unscientific sources have got together in their own War Room and come up with their verdicts. Here they are.

Adrian Peterson – Peterson has spent his entire 10-year career with the Vikings and, regardless of where he plays next season, he will always be viewed as a Viking. However, unless the team steps up with a competitive offer, there is likely a team out there that will give him more than the Vikings are willing to spend, which is likely less than $5 million a year. VERDICT: He goes.

Matt Kalil – Perhaps the value of no player in the league was made clearer to coaches, teammates and a fan base than when Kalil went down last year and the Vikings offensive line spiraled downward. Given his injury history, he’s far from a lock, but he’s young and likely willing to stay in Minnesota at a market-level contract. VERDICT: He stays.

Captain Munnerlyn – The Vikings made a very solid signing three years ago when they inked Munnerlyn to a three-year deal at what was viewed as a value price. He is looking for a bigger deal this time around and, while the Vikings should re-sign Munnerlyn, an effective slot corner and one of the most popular guys in the locker room, they won’t get into a bidding war and he’s likely to get a better offer elsewhere than the Vikings will be willing to spend. VERDICT: He goes.

Cordarrelle Patterson – He emerged last season and has been the most explosive kick returner since entering the league in 2013. With the Vikings prepared to pay Adam Thielen – don’t be shocked if the team gets a long-term deal done at some point – and have big expectations for Stefon Diggs and the investment made in Laquon Treadwell, it seems unlikely the Vikings will pay the $4-5 million a year Patterson will likely command on the open market. VERDICT: He goes.

Terence Newman – He turns 39 in September, but he still brings it. Mike Zimmer isn’t doing him any favors by bringing him back for one more year. He’s making a smart business decision. VERDICT: He stays (if he wants to).

Jeff Locke – If you go by the empirical evidence used to rate punters, Locke is consistently in the bottom third of gross and net punting yardage. But special teams coordinator Mike Priefer consistently has claimed that Locke could punt 10 yards farther, but the Vikings Way is to punt high and let the coverage team get under it. Those who check comparative stats would say “no,” but the Vikings have seemed to like what they see and would likely want to see more for some reason. VERDICT: He stays.

Andre Smith – He was a one-year deal from the beginning and wasn’t playing well before he collapsed due to injury. Once bitten… VERDICT: He goes.

Rhett Ellison – It remains uncertain what role Ellison would play in the nuanced difference between Norv Turner and Pat Shurmur. He has been a solid role player and likely won’t have a robust market of suitors. VERDICT: He stays.

Shaun Hill – He was a placeholder and can boast a 1-0 record on his watch. But, with questions revolving around Teddy Bridgewater, Hill’s age and his minimum salary may be a bit prohibitive since former starters are going to be littering the open market and can likely be signed on incentive-laden, team-friendly deals that only pay off if required. VERDICT: He goes.

Matt Asiata – He has earned a niche in the Vikings running game, but his M.O. has been gaining three or four yards a carry and doing nothing to establish himself as a niche threat to be the guy who can grind out the clock or make the big play that changes a game. Cheaper players with similar expected production can be found. VERDICT: He goes.

Justin Trattou – One of the few Vikings who can brandish his bling ring from his days with the Giants, Trattou has carved himself out a spot on the roster and, in a limited role, has consistently graded out well and made plays. Unless someone else has a whole lotta love for him, why not bring him back? VERDICT: He stays.

Zach Line – If the Vikings are looking to carry a fullback on their roster, Line is a decent one and willing to do what it takes to keep a job. VERDICT: He stays. 

Jake Long – Another rental player like Andre Smith, Long performed better than expected, but he appears ready to call it a career while the Vikings look for younger options at left tackle that aren't coming off an Achilles injury. VERDICT: He goes. 

Audie Cole – He will likely test the market and take whatever comes along. Backup linebackers are plentiful, but if nothing pops elsewhere he could certainly return on a minimum deal and enter the competition for a roster spot. VERDICT: He stays.

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