- Ben Goessling, ESPN Staff Writer
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Examining the Minnesota Vikings' roster:
The Vikings could free up some roster space if they carried only two QBs and traded Ponder for a late-round pick at some point, but it seems likely they'll carry three into the season. Ponder could still have some value in an emergency, if the Vikings aren't ready to put Bridgewater on the field and they need someone to fill in if Cassel is injured or ineffective.
RUNNING BACKS (4)
Joe Banyard could push Asiata for the third running back spot, especially if he shows he can fit into the offense as a receiver. Zach Line also will be competing for a spot after a solid training camp and preseason last year.
WIDE RECEIVERS (6)
Vikings general manager Rick Spielman singled out Thielen -- who spent last year on the Vikings' practice squad -- as a player who had improved from last year during the Vikings' minicamp. He could stick as the fifth receiver, and Colter (who got an $8,000 signing bonus) might fit in as a return man if the Vikings look to get Patterson some breaks on kickoffs.
TIGHT ENDS (3)
Chase Ford's broken foot could mean he'll start the season on the physically-unable-to-perform list. It also opens up a spot for the Vikings to put Leonard on the roster; he's only 6-foot-2 and will struggle as a blocker, but his speed (a 4.43-second 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine) could make him an intriguing weapon, especially if the Vikings look to flex him out.
OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)
The only starting spot up for grabs might be at left guard, where Yankey could compete with Johnson. Undrafted rookie Antonio Richardson could get a long look at tackle, too, and if the Vikings don't put him on their roster, they'll likely try to sneak him onto their practice squad.
DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (8)
This might be the deepest position group on the Vikings' roster, and in Mike Zimmer's defensive line rotation, they could all play; Wootton and Crichton give the Vikings a pair of versatile backups who can play inside or outside, and Johnson and Evans figure to be the primary backups at three-technique and nose tackle, respectively. The Vikings will be counting on Floyd taking a big step forward in Year 2.
In Cincinnati, Zimmer had linebacking groups of just six and five players after training camp the past two seasons. If the position is similarly staffed this season, it could mean the Vikings will cut seventh-round pick Brandon Watts. There are plenty of questions at the position overall -- none of the three spots in the Vikings' base defense is completely solidified -- but in Barr, Hodges, Mauti and Cole, the Vikings have some young talent to work with.
DEFENSIVE BACKS (11)
The Vikings will keep one more defensive back than they did last year to add some depth at cornerback in light of all the prolific passing attacks they'll see early this year. Kurt Coleman will have to fight for one of the last safety spots; the Vikings seem to like Exum's potential as a safety, and Blanton got quite a bit of work with Smith in the Vikings' first-team defense during minicamp.
The group returns unchanged from what the Vikings had on their roster last year; Locke punted better toward the end of the season, and has already put in some work getting to know the wind patterns at TCF Bank Stadium.