4 players the Vikings can't risk putting on the practice squad in 2024

Minnesota Vikings CB Dwight McGlothern
Minnesota Vikings CB Dwight McGlothern / Justin Ford/GettyImages

Practice squads for the Minnesota Vikings and the rest of the NFL have evolved in recent years. Before, it was about a 10-man unit primarily made up of late or undrafted players who were kept to develop in hopes they become contributors someday. That has changed and now it's become more of a bench situation where even veterans can be kept and then called up to play in different weeks depending on the injury situation.

One factor of the practice squad that remains, is that a player signed off of it needs to be signed to a new team's active roster. That puts anyone on the practice squad in jeopardy of being sniped at any point during the regular season.

The Vikings are still a ways away from determining who will comprise their practice squad in 2024, but they have to be aware that some players are more at risk of being sniped or claimed on waivers if given the chance.

Players the Minnesota Vikings can't risk putting on their 2024 practice squad

Gabriel Murphy - EDGE

Teams can never have enough edge rushers in the NFL, and a young, talented kid sitting on the practice squad or available on waivers could have a ton of suitors. Gabriel Murphy could fit that description.

He had a productive career at UCLA, with 21.5 sacks and 37 tackles for a loss. He fell in the draft primarily because he was undersized, and the Vikings signed him with the thought that he could become the next Ivan Pace.

Murphy is just 6-foot-2 and 238 pounds, so that frame is a concern. However, he's got an explosive first step and a non-stop motor, and working in Brian Flores's defense as part of a rotation would see limited but fresh snaps. He could have a small role on the defense as a rookie.

He also could just as easily develop slowly. He'll need to hone his technique and learn how to use his hands to get an advantage over much bigger blockers. If this is slow to come to him, he could be let go at final cuts with the hopes he clears waivers and gets stashed on the practice squad.

While Murphy signed with the Vikings, they weren't the only team interested in his services. If other teams who wanted Murphy after the draft see he's available on a practice squad and have room for another edge rusher, he'll get snapped up and become the property of enemy colors.

Dwight McGlothern - CB

The Vikings signed Dwight McGlothern after the draft, and it got fans excited, as many expected him to be selected at some point during the draft's third day. McGlothern has a lot going for him, including size, length, and speed. He ended up missing a majority of his senior season with injuries, and that was likely enough to cause him to slide down the board and be undrafted.

It'll be interesting to see if the Vikings are willing to move off of Andrew Booth Jr. to keep McGlothern, but they could decide to cut him and hope he gets through waivers. Even if that happens, there's a strong chance a team will sign him off the Vikings practice squad. McGlothern has a lot of potential, as he's shown a willingness to tackle and also has great ball skills.

If the Vikings can't keep him because of a numbers issue, he won't stay on their practice squad for long. Cornerbacks are always needed in the NFL, especially as it develops into more of a passing league. McGlothern has the tools to develop into a good one, and if the Vikings don't sign him to their active roster, he'll become a member of another one.

Jay Ward - S

There's no doubt that Jay Ward was a major disappointment as a rookie in 2023. He had two inexcusable penalties on special teams that resulted in points for the other team. That's unheard of, but he also didn't get a sniff on defense.

As gross as that was, it is forgivable. He was a rookie who was learning, and mistakes are to be expected. He'll get a pass for his special teams faux pas, but he's still facing an uphill battle when it comes to making the Vikings roster in 2024.

If he remains at safety, his best shot is unseating Lewis Cine for a spot on the depth chart. Ward could also play nickel corner and maybe even some linebacker, so perhaps he'll be seen as a backup to Josh Metellus. If he doesn't end up achieving a spot on the roster, he'll be sent to the practice squad but may not stay there long.

Ward was a fourth-round pick, and in most cases, players drafted that high get multiple opportunities to succeed in the NFL. There's a good chance he would be claimed off of waivers, and if he does clear them and is signed to the practice squad, chances are very high that another team will sign him to their roster, hoping he can reach his potential.

As mentioned above, Ward is a versatile defender who could find a home at multiple positions on a defense. There are surely at least a handful of defensive coordinators out there who believe they can mold Ward into something and will convince their general managers and head coaches to take a chance on him.

NaJee Thompson - CB

NaJee Thompson made the Vikings 53-man roster in 2023 because of his special teams prowess. The dude was a beast as a gunner and made a ton of splashy plays in the preseason that earned him a spot on the team. He wasn't as good in the regular season but did have a shining moment against the Packers late in the season.

While he's an excellent special teamer, Thompson hasn't come close to seeing time on defense. Despite being kept as a cornerback, the Vikings opted to call up Jaylin Williams from the practice squad before putting Thompson out on defense.

If he's no closer to becoming a contributor on defense after the 2024 preseason, the Vikings may make the tough decision to cut him and hope he makes it through waivers so they can sign him to the practice squad. That would end up being a mistake.

Thompson was an excellent gunner last season and should be even better with another preseason under his belt. Having a guy who can streak down the field and lay out a returner is huge and can be a game-changing type of role. A lot of teams realize this and won't hesitate to free up a spot on their roster to sign a special teams star like NaJee Thompson.

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