The Minnesota Vikings have waived offensive lineman Ryan Cook, tight end Jeff Dugan and linebacker Heath Farwell, three vested veterans who’ve been valuable backups for several seasons.
The Vikings reduced their active roster to 53 players for the regular season before the NFL’s deadline on Saturday afternoon, and they chose youth and potential over experience and stability when determining their depth at a handful of positions. They cut 26 players and placed linebacker Jasper Brinkley on season-ending injured reserve.
The Vikings were off for the weekend and unavailable for comment. In a statement distributed by the team, head coach Leslie Frazier said he’s “excited about the makeup and character” of the roster and said it was “extremely difficult” to inform the waived players of their fate.
“It’s especially hard when they are veterans,” Frazier said, adding: “They are good people and good players, and we wish them the best in the future.”
The only starting position left unsettled at the end of the preseason was at strong safety, where Tyrell Johnson and Jamarca Sanford have been competing. Frazier said on Thursday night the coaching staff was still evaluating them.
But there were several up-in-the-air spots on the second team, creating a number of intriguing situations complicated by salary cap numbers. Frazier and vice president for player personnel Rick Spielman made it clear their desire to be competitive by trading for quarterback Donovan McNabb instead of turning the offense over to rookie Christian Ponder or project Joe Webb.
When it came to backups, however, upside largely won out.
After starting at right tackle for two seasons, Cook was a reliable utility man for the last two, capable of playing any of the five spots on the line in a pinch. The Vikings kept 10 offensive linemen, but Cook and Chris DeGeare, a fifth-round draft pick last year, were let go. Two holdovers from last year’s practice squad, guard Seth Olsen and tackle Patrick Brown, made the team. So did a pair of rookies, tackle DeMarcus Love and center Brandon Fusco, a sixth-round draft pick from Division II Slippery Rock.
Rookie Allen Reisner, undrafted out of Iowa, made the team instead of Dugan as the fourth tight end. Farwell was also beaten out by undrafted rookie Larry Dean from Division II Valdosta State.
Spielman, in a statement released by the team, remarked about the young players who “made strong impressions” throughout the preseason.
“They earned a spot on our roster, and we will count on them to contribute this season and help us accomplish our goals,” Spielman said.
Farwell, a special teams standout who was to make $1.75 million this season, hurt his hamstring in training camp and thus became a casualty of the slim space under the salary cap.
With Brinkley out following hip surgery, Dean and another major special teams contributor, Kenny Onatolu, are the only pure backup linebackers currently on the roster, though defensive end Everson Griffen has been playing both positions. Farwell made the roster as an undrafted rookie in 2005 and was a Pro Bowl pick in 2009 for his performance covering kicks.
The other vested veteran waived by the Vikings was defensive end Stylez G. White, who signed with the team less than two weeks ago. He had 24 sacks over the last four seasons with Tampa Bay. White was a former University of Minnesota standout who played then with the given first name Greg.
This wasn’t a bad day for former Gophers, though. Cornerback Marcus Sherels, an undrafted long shot last year who played his way onto the practice squad, made the team as a backup and a punt returner. The Vikings kept 11 players in the secondary, including six cornerbacks.
The spot for Sherels opened up when wide receiver Jaymar Johnson was let go.
Also on the long list of cuts were defensive ends David Akinniyi and Cedric McKinley; running backs Tristan Davis, Alexander Robinson and Caleb King; guard Byron Isom; cornerbacks Devon Torrence, Cord Parks and Tony Carter; safety Ryan Hill; wide receivers Emmanuel Arceneaux, Juaquin Iglesias and Stephen Burton; fullbacks Ryan D’Imperio and Matt Asiata; linebackers Ross Homan and David Herron; offensive lineman Thomas Welch; and defensive tackle Tremaine Johnson — another former Gophers player.
With DeGeare and D’Imperio gone, the Vikings have only four of their eight draft picks from 2010 left on the roster. Nine of their 10 draft picks from this year made the team, with practice squad candidate Ross Homan, a linebacker from Ohio State, the only one let go. Homan has been sidelined by a concussion.
The Vikings will have to make another cut in two weeks when defensive tackle Kevin Williams returns from his two-game suspension stemming from a 2008 positive test for a banned weight-loss drug that led to a lengthy court fight between Williams, some other players and the league.
Letroy Guion will start in place of Williams for the regular season opener on Sept. 11 at San Diego.
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