The lockout will be over any day now and we’ll soon be making roster predictions for the 2011 season. Might as well begin now by trimming the fat…
Per ESPN’s John Clayton the Minnesota Vikings are approximately $5.1 million over the $120 million salary cap. That figure is also on our current roster; which doesn’t take into account any rookie salaries (namely Christian Ponder) and room must be cleared to sign some folks in the free agent market (most notably trying to retain Sidney Rice and possibly bringing in a veteran QB). Let’s rank the 10 current Minnesota Vikings who are most likely to be cut or at least asked to restructure breaking it down by categories.
Almost Certain To Wear Purple, But Worth Monitoring
10. Cedric Griffin, Cornerback — $3.35 million
Griffin seems to be recovering well from his second torn ACL and his determination has to be admired. Leslie Frazier has gone so far to say that he’ll be the starting corner when camp begins. He’s also the Vikings most physical corner doing the best job handling bigger wide receivers. So why is he included in this list: His salary and the fact that we’ve seen this movie before. Marlin Jackson was a fantastic corner for the Indianapolis Colts until needing surgery in each knee, had his hefty salary cut after exhibiting less explosiveness and ability to backpedal in camp. Jackson was later picked up by the Eagles, but spent last season on injured reserve. Let’s hope it plays out differently for Griffin, however he will have to be able to go full tilt in camp. It’s also eerie that both Jackson and Griffin are 28.
Too Expensive To Be On “Roster Bubble”
9. Jim Kleinsasser, Tight End — $3 million
Kleinsasser is a fan favorite, has played his entire career for the Vikings and looks all too close to Jack Black. But he’s also solely used for blocking now and the team is set on having rookie Kyle Rudolph get as many snaps as possible as the second tight end. Jeff Dugan just signed a 5-year extension last offseason and could fill Kleinsasser’s shoe. Nonetheless, Kleinsasser would be a painful cut to make.
8. Heath Farwell, Linebacker – $1.75 million
$1.75 million is a lot to pay backup linebacker with the Vikings having Kenny Onatolu, Ross Homan, Erin Henderson and Jasper Brinkley already on the roster – all of which are cheaper options. Plus with the new NFL kickoff rules of placing the ball at the 35, there will not be as much of need for players that make their living as a special teams ace.
7. Greg Lewis, Wide Receiver — $725k
6. Greg Camarillo, Wide Receiver — $1.55 million
These two can be lumped together. Has anyone remembered a play Greg Lewis has made since his miraculous catch versus San Francisco? He is one of the few Viking wide receivers who can play outside, but is 30 and it would be generous to say he brings any athleticism to the field. Camarillo was a huge disappointment last year having only 20 receptions for 240 yards with a touchdown. While some of that is not his fault adjusting to a new offense with Brett Favre, it was a panic acquisition having Sidney hurt last year and the results just weren’t there.
5. Jimmy Kennedy, Defensive Tackle – $2.5 million
The only thing memorable about Kennedy’s 2010 season was his complaints to the media about not getting enough playing time. Come to think of it, his mouth was more productive than his play making all of 5 tackles and only had 1 sack. He’s due $2.5 million this year replaceable talent would come at about a fifth the price.
The Wild Card
4. Steve Hutchinson, Guard — $6.68 million
I’ve been ripped on Twitter for suggesting that Steve Hutchinson could possibly to cut or at the very least asked to restructure. And that’s fine. Constructive criticism is welcomed. Then one of my followers went so far as to ask the Star Tribune’s Judd Zulgad and sure enough The Hooded Reporter later agreed with me in Access Vikings.
Hutchinson has had a borderline Hall of Fame career being one of the best interior lineman of the past decade. But he’s also 33, graded out as an average guard last year and is due a whopping $6.68 million next year. His leadership would be missed but if cut there is no way he’d find a taker giving him anything north of $4 million next year. Plan on a restructure.
See Ya Elsewhere
3. Anthony Herrera, Guard — $2.65 million
Herrera graded out last year as one of the five worst guards in all of football last year. He also is coming off of two down years and is due $2.65 million in 2011. It would be easy to cut bait with him to allow youngsters Chris DeGeare and DeMarcus Love to compete for his position.
2. Madieu Williams, Safety — $5.4 million
Since being named head coach, Frazier has defended Madieu Williams poor play over the past two seasons. Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN has also suggested that Williams could be brought back considering there will be a shortened offseason. But the fact remains that Williams hasn’t been the same player with the Vikings that he was in Cincinnati. It’s simply not acceptable to pay a free safety $5.4 million that ignores tackling angles and has at best mediocre cover skills.
1. Bernard Berrian, Wide Receiver – $3.9 million
No surprise here. We’ve been writing about this for many months. The only sticky point on Berrian is that both him and Sidney Rice have the same agent in Drew Rosenhaus. It is worth wondering if cutting Berrian on the first day would upset Rosenhaus and they won’t want to deal with the Vikings. But this is also a business and Rosenhaus already made plenty off of Berrian’s $5 million signing bonus in 2008.
There’s also the fallback option in Berrian if Rice leaves. But would anyone really care if Rice leaves and we so happen to start over at WR rebuilding around Percy Harvin? Tom Brady won a Super Bowl throwing to Deion Branch, Troy Brown and David Givens… You don’t think that’s a reminder to the young Ponder? Larry Fitzgerald is also a free agent in 2012. Tell me a better superstar to help cristen a new stadium (provided we get one)? You can’t!
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In conclusion, this list is entirely subjective. You may say “There’s no way we’re cutting player X for thus-and-such reason” but the likes of Adrian Peterson, Antoine Winfield, Bryant McKinnie, Chad Greenway, EJ Henderson, Jared Allen, Kevin Williams and Percy Harvin playing elsewhere in 2011 is off the table. The fact also remains this team wants to get younger. That process already started this past April by drafting 10 players, which was more than any other team. By cutting this entire list over $30 million would be freed up. Perhaps more than enough to retain Sidney (provided he still wants to stay) and also explore bringing in Kyle Orton to run the offense as Ponder develops. A 6-10 team with a new coach calls for some house cleaning. And we need a lot of it sooner rather than later.
EDITORS NOTE: It has been brought to my attention that Greg Lewis is not under contract. The source I was working with showed a salary of 725k for the 2011 season, however that is wrong with every other player on this list under contract for the 2011 season.
Jon Merckle may be followed on Twitter @thevikingpig