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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Vikings have been on a mission to get younger ever since an aging team led by Brett Favre bottomed out in his second season in 2010.
The quest was never more evident than by the roster moves they made on Friday night, including at the game’s most high-profile position.
Veteran quarterback Sage Rosenfels was among the 20 players cut by the team, meaning they will enter the season with three players with a combined four years of experience at the position.
The Vikings also cut veteran safety and special teams mainstay Eric Frampton in favor of third-year safety Andrew Sendejo and let go of two veterans they brought in during the offseason — cornerback Chris Carr and defensive end Jeff Charleston — who were underwhelming during the preseason.
The only mild surprise among the moves on Friday night was Rosenfels, considering starter Christian Ponder is entering his second season, backup Joe Webb is entering his third season but has been bounced back and forth between receiver and quarterback and McLeod Bethel-Thompson played arena football last season and spent some time on Miami’s practice squad last season.
The 34-year-old Rosenfels signed a two-year, $3 million deal in March to come back to the Vikings and be the steady hand on the sideline just in case Ponder struggled or was injured and Webb continued to look uneven running the offense.
Rosenfels is guaranteed $500,000 this season, but his fate may have been sealed in the preseason finale against Houston on Thursday night when he missed a wide open Devin Aromashodu on one route and Bethel-Thompson showed flashes of the arm strength and athleticism that earned him a look in the first place.
Bethel-Thompson threw for 193 yards with a touchdown and an interception against the Texans, including a 59-yard touchdown to rookie Jarius Wright and did enough to force the Vikings to keep him despite the overall inexperience of their quarterback group.
The Wilf family gave Rick Spielman the title of general manager in the offseason to be the most influential voice in charting the course for a turnaround. Stuck at the bottom of one of the most competitive divisions in the league — with Green Bay, Chicago and Detroit all on the upswing — the Vikings appear to be enacting a long-term plan to get back near the top of the NFC North.
The team has finished last in the division in back-to-back seasons for the first time in the franchise’s history and has 40 players on the active roster who are 27 or younger.
The Vikings also cut receiver Manny Arceneaux, defensive tackles Chase Baker and Trevor Guyton, offensive linemen Chris DeGeare, Kevin Murphy, Tyler Holmes, Quentin Saulsberry and Austin Pasztor, running backs Jordan Todman and Lex Hilliard, cornerbacks Bobby Felder and Reggie Jones, fullback Ryan D’Imperio, linebacker Corey Paredes, defensive end Nick Reed and tight end Mickey Shuler.
They also placed offensive lineman DeMarcus Love on injured reserve with a shoulder injury.
Todman did his best to make a final push for the third running back job, rushing for 114 yards and a touchdown against the Texans. But he missed much of the preseason with because of injuries and was beat out by Matt Asiata.
Aromashodu’s performance in the finale locked up his spot on a muddled receiving group that counts Percy Harvin as its only proven threat. Veteran Michael Jenkins and youngsters Stephen Burton and Wright are the only other receivers on the active roster right while Jerome Simpson sits out the first three games with a suspension.
The Vikings figure to be active bringing in players who were let go by other teams, with their biggest needs at receiver, offensive line and cornerback.
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