With the Vikings Offseason Conditioning program well underway at Winter Park, the NFL Draft complete, and the major activity of free agency having wound down, where are we with the roster? After the dust has settled and we approach training camp in a few months, are there any glaring issues that still need to be addressed with the roster? Let’s dive in after the jump.
First off, I am including all of the draft picks and the 15 undrafted free agents to the roster, even though we haven’t officially signed any of them to the team yet. We have agreed to terms with the undrafted free agents, but contract negotiations are still happening with the draft picks as far as I know. We entered the draft with 67 players on the roster, and added 25 more through the draft and undrafted free agents (hence we had to cut 2 players and TE Daniel Hardy and OL Butch Lewis were axed today). So, we now have our 90 players as we approach OTAs, Minicamps and Training Camp, wait, make that 89 players (since we also released Caleb King). 37 (check that, 36) of those players will be cut from the team as we approach the season opener on September 9th.
Surely, Bethel-Thompson won’t make the team, but if he shows some promise he could always make the practice squad. But, Ponder will be the starter heading into camp with Webb backing him up. I think I speak for all us when I say, let’s hope he progresses this off-season and improves in 2012. I think potential best sums up the QBs on the roster, and let’s hope they realize it.
Reports about Adrian Peterson’s rehab have been nothing but positive news all off-season. The surgery went well, then he was running in a pool, then on ground. Next thing we heard he was beating everyone on the team in straight-line wind sprints just a week ago. I hope he comes back stronger than before, but with Gerhardt and Hilliard behind him, he’s got some great support. I wonder if we’ll bring in another RB after the release of Caleb King? I also wonder if we’ll keep 3 or 4 RB on the roster.
FB: Jerome Felton, Ryan D'Imperio, Matt Asiata
We've been saying all summer "MOAR FULLBACK", because in addition to these 3 guys, Lex Hilliard and Rhett Ellison also have experience at FB. Despite the plethora of FB on the roster right now, my guess is that Felton makes the team, and D'Imperio has to have a bit of luck. Asiata is nothing but practice squad fodder at this point. Who am I kidding, are you listening Spielman? YOU'RE NOT DONE, WE NEED MOAR FULLBACKS!
So…we have 12 wide receivers on the roster right now, and maybe 5 will make the team. If I had to pick 5 right now, I’d say: Harvin, Jenkins, Simpson, Wright and Childs. Maybe we keep a 6th guy and then it’s probably a battle by Aromashaodu and Burton. While I like the moves, especially the draft picks, I’m not sure if we have a true #1 guy this year. Maybe Simpson or Childs could become that #1 outside guy, but we might be looking to spend a high round draft pick at WR next year if they don’t. I expect 1 or 2 WR to find their way on the practice squad too.
Knowing that the team just cut Daniel Hardy, it makes the drafting of Ellison a little bit more understandable. Hardy was likely never going to have a shot at making the team. You have to think that maybe the coaching staff wanted to create competition at the TE position for Shuler and Reisner, because neither guy has elite talent. If Ellison is the next coming of K-Sauce, then Shuler is probably on the way out.
OT: Matt Kalil, Phil Loadholt, DeMarcus Love, Patrick Brown, Darrion Weems
OG: Charlie Johnson, Geoff Schwartz, Chris DeGeare, Austin Pasztor
C: John Sullivan, Quinton Saulsberry
OL: Brandon Fusco, Joe Berger, Jose Valdez
I breathed a big sigh of relief when we drafted Matt Kalil. He should be able to fix at least 2 positions along the line. I’d be surprised if our starting O-Line after training camp wasn’t: Kalil-Johnson-Sullivan-Schwartz-Loadholt. That line is already light-years ahead of last year, but I can’t help but wonder if we might need to upgrade the right side of the line and/or the guard position. Loadholt better step up his pass-blocking this year, because he’s in a contract year.
I think it was a mistake to avoid drafting a DT this year. Kevin Williams is 31 years old and only has 2 years left on his contract. Trading him after this year would be very smart. I really hope Guion proves me wrong (and I’ll gladly eat crow if he does), but he doesn’t strike me as an every down starter at the nose. I hope one of those undrafted free agents pans out for us for added depth, because Fred Evans has never been outstanding. I’d like to see Ballard progress this year too. But, we’ll likely be looking at upgrading the DT position in next year’s draft.
Sooner rather than later, Jared Allen will begin his downward slope towards retirement. I think we just witnessed his peak last season as he nearly broke the single season sack record. He just turned 30 this off-season and will still have several years of great production ahead of him, but his trade value won’t get any higher than it is right now. If Griffin takes a step forward in development, we should seriously considering trading Allen to further help in our rebuilding efforts, because Robison has proved to be a capable starter totaling 44 tackles and 8 sacks (Allen had 66 tackles and 22 sacks). Maybe one of those rookies gives Reed a run for his money.
Assuming that Mitchell was a good FA signing, Larry Dean improves, and Elimimian had a breakout year in the CFL because he’s talented (and not because the guys he played against sucked), then we could be ok. Erin Henderson and Jasper Brinkley have a lot to prove this year though, and if they regress, we’ll be looking for some starting talent in next year’s draft. We brought in some young talent in McKenzie, Cole, Nielsen and Parades, but I have a hard time seeing any of them making the team, unless we keep 7 LB.
I credit Spielman for bringing in some quality backups and a lot of young, potential talent this offseason. I’m sure the plan is to have Winfield and Cook start on the outside, but guys like Carr, Bowman and Robinson could definitely push to start. With 12 guys on the roster at CB (13 if you count Blanton…but I’m putting him in the safety group), I have to think that at least 6 of them make the roster. Burton and Sherels are going to have to show some major improvement in year 2 if they want to stick with the team. I hope C.C. Whitlock makes the team, because, well, you know…CC is just such a cool first name. I’m betting on 1 or 2 guys finding their way onto the practice squad.
This group is still likely the weakest unit on defense. Since we now have 89 guys on the roster, I wonder if a Husain Abdullah signing is imminent. We could sure use him to start opposite Harrison Smith, because Frampton and Sanford aren’t starting material, and Raymond looked very raw. I like Sanford and Raymond as backups and special teamers though, and Frampton and Blanton could find it difficult to secure a spot on the team. Maybe one of them gives Sanford a run for his money? We will likely have to upgrade this position again next year in the draft, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we sign an older veteran before the season starts (either Abdullah, Atogwe or someone else).
It looks like we're going to have an old-fashioned kicking competition in training camp between Ryan Longwell and Blair Walsh. Walsh should be able to run circles around Longwell in any distance competitions, but it remains to be seen who is the most accurate of the two. I wouldn't be surprised to see us dump Longwell and take our lumps with a rookie kicker. Although, it sure seems like a risky proposition.
Looking over the roster, I see an improved OL and WR corp. I hope it’s enough support for Christian Ponder to improve. We’re going to have a completely different looking offense with our new TEs too. On defense, I see improved depth in the secondary, which is good, and if the starters can stay on the field, we should see dramatic improvements. Our LB corp has the most to prove of any unit, and they remain something of a question mark for me. The same could be said of Guion on the D-Line, but we still have a lot of talent there anyway with Jared Allen, Kevin Williams and Brian Robison. We definitely improved our team from last year, but guess what, so did the other 31 teams in the NFL. I hope we can find more than 3 wins in 2012, but unless there are some sudden and dramatic developments in our players this off-season, I think the playoffs are going to be tough to get to. I’m seeing a 6-10 record, or maybe 7-9 at best. If we can manage 8-8 then I’ll be ecstatic, as that will prove that we just need a few more missing pieces to push us back into playoff contention. But, this looks like a 2-year rebuild to me, and we’re only half way there.