With the Vikings draft and most of the (likely) free agency moves completed, let’s take a look at how the Vikings roster may shake out after the last cuts before the regular season begins.
Kirk Cousins, Kellen Mond.
No surprises here. Mond takes over the backup role from Sean Mannion.
Between Nate Stanley and Jake Browning, one will make the practice squad, the other will be cut.
Running Back / Fullback (5)
RB: Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison, Kene Nwangwu
FB: CJ Ham, Jake Bargas
I’m projecting that Ameer Abdullah is cut, as he loses his returner spot and isn’t as valuable on special teams otherwise. He also didn’t do well in limited pass blocking snaps last season, and is an average running back at this point. I suspect Nwangwu was taken in the 4th round as more than just a returner, particularly as RB coach Kennedy Polamalu stood on the table for him.
I included Jake Bargas here, rather than with the TEs, as he’s the backup to Ham, but he can play both positions. I do think they’ll keep Bargas as a blocker in both roles.
Wide Receiver (5)
Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, Bisi Johnson, Ihmir Smith-Marsette, Dan Chisena.
Cuts: Whop Philyor, Chad Beebe, Blake Proehl, K.J. Osborn.
I’d expect a couple of the cut wide receivers to make the practice squad, most likely Beebe and Osborn. Bisi Johnson was the 3rd best WR for the Vikings last year in terms of PFF grade and yards per route run, so he’s there as an experienced WR3. I have Ihmir Smith-Marsette supplanting Chad Beebe as slot receiver, and Dan Chisena for his core special teams ability. I don’t see Osborn winning a returner job, which costs him a roster spot. Special teams ability/contributions are key for non-starting wide receivers, particularly this year when upgrading the special teams units is a priority.
Tight End (3)
Irv Smith Jr., Tyler Conklin, Zach Davidson
Brandon Dillon to be placed on the practice squad, Shane Zylstra cut.
With Jake Bargas able to take on duties as a blocking TE, the Vikings opt for Zach Davidson as more of a receiving threat for the last TE spot beyond Smith and Conklin.
Offensive Line (10)
Starters: Christian Darrisaw, Ezra Cleveland, Garrett Bradbury, Wyatt Davis, Brian O’Neill
Backups: Rashod Hill, Mason Cole, Kyle Hinton, Dakota Dozier, Oli Udoh
Cuts: Dru Samia, Zach Bailey, Blake Brandel.
One or two of the cuts may go to the practice squad. I suspect the Vikings cut bait with Samia, while the rookies take over the starting positions. Hill and Udoh are the backup tackles, Cole and Dozier the experienced interior backups, and Hinton as a promising C/G round out the roster spots.
Defensive Line (10)
Danielle Hunter, Michael Pierce, Dalvin Tomlinson, D.J. Wonnum, Armon Watts, Jaylen Twyman, Janarius Robinson, Patrick Jones II, Hercules Mata’afa, James Lynch.
Cuts: Stephen Weatherly, Jalyn Holmes, Kenny Willekes, Christian Elliss, Zeandae Johnson, Jordan Scott, Jordan Brailford.
Stephen Weatherly is somewhat of a surprise cut here, but there is a reason for it. He’s had two bad seasons in a row, and essentially has been cut twice in the past two years as a result. He’s also had 3 bad years in the last 4, and was kind of a backup-if-the-draft-didn’t go-well-at-DE signing. I don’t see that translating into winning an intense camp competition against 3rd and 4th round picks- and he’s the biggest cap hit as well. Cutting him saves $2 million in cap space.
Jalyn Holmes has never been good since the Vikings drafted him, a tweener that never found a spot to excel at. The Vikings have more clear cut options at both DT and DE now, which makes Holmes expendable.
The rest of the cuts are not that surprising, but perhaps Mata’afa and Lynch making the roster might be. Mata’afa makes it more as a early down run defender, along with Lynch. Both could take some rotational reps at DE in that capacity.
Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks, Chazz Surratt, Troy Dye, Cameron Smith
Cuts: Ryan Connelly, Nick Vigil, Tuf Borland, Blake Lynch.
With Barr and Kendricks the two starters, and Surratt a 3rd round pick, those spots are pretty well set. Beyond that, the last two spots are tough to predict. I don’t think the Vikings will cut bait on a 4th round pick after one injury-shortened season without a real off-season, so I think they keep Troy Dye despite his not having a good rookie season before it ended early. Cameron Smith didn’t play last year after needing open-heart surgery, but he played well against Chicago week 17 in 2019, has a good athletic profile, and did fine on special teams in 2019 as well, so I’ll give him the last spot.
Nick Vigil is a mediocre journeyman linebacker who turns 28 this year, and I don’t see them keeping him if the younger guys are showing promise. Connelly is younger, but similarly undistinguished. He did well on special teams last year, however. Between Connelly, Borland, and Lynch, a couple of them could make the practice squad.
Patrick Peterson, Cameron Dantzler, MacKensie Alexander, Jeff Gladney, Harrison Hand, Kris Boyd.
Trade/cut: Mike Hughes, Dylan Mabin.
I’m assuming here that Gladney is not bounced out of the league for his off-field issue, but that remains a distinct possibility. If he’s cut, then perhaps they keep Mike Hughes. If not, the Vikings may look to trade Mike Hughes for a late-round pick, which would save them $1.8 million in cap space, or if that’s not happening, cut him for a $1.2 million cap savings.
Harrison Smith, Xavier Woods, Camryn Bynum, Josh Metellus
Cut: Myles Dorn, Luther Kirk.
I think this group has the least competition, with Smith and Woods the clear cut starters, and Bynum and Metellus the favorites for backup spots. Metellus was a good special teams performer last season, which helps secure his position, while Bynum as a new draft pick will get a shot to prove himself at safety- and as a special teamer.
Kicker: Greg Joseph
Punter/Holder: Britton Colquitt
Long-Snapper: Andrew DePaola
The Vikings brought in another set of specialists via UDFA signings, both to compete for starting jobs and, I suspect, to facilitate another special teams practice group, so they can run two-at-a-time during special team practices to get more work in and more players involved. While it’s certainly possible any one of the them (kicker Riley Patterson, punter Zach von Rosenberg, and long-snapper Turner Bernard) could win the starting job, there is nothing in their background that suggests they have the inside track based on superior performance in the past.