The crowded locker room at Winter Park is going to get thinned out considerably over the next two weeks. As the Vikings prepare to cut their roster from its current total of 90 down to 75 next Monday and down to 53 a week from Friday, there is a lot of speculation as to who will stay and who will go.
However, even with a markedly younger roster that includes more than 40 percent of players that weren’t on the team at the end of the 2011 season, the decisions may be much easier than many might think. In fact, a case could be made that almost half of the current roster is fighting for six or seven spots.
A glance at the Vikings depth shows that as many as 48 players likely have roster spots locked up, which leaves just five spots for the other 42 players to fight over.
There are 37 players that, barring injuries, should be viewed as near-locks to make the final roster. They are as follows:
Quarterbacks – Christian Ponder, Joe Webb
Running Backs – Toby Gerhart, Adrian Peterson
Wide Receivers – Percy Harvin, Jerome Simpson, Jarius Wright
Tight Ends – John Carlson, Kyle Rudolph, Rhett Ellison
Offensive Linemen – Brandon Fusco, Charlie Johnson, Matt Kalil, Phil Loadholt, Geoff Schwartz, John Sullivan
Defensive Linemen – Jared Allen, Christian Ballard, Fred Evans, Everson Griffen, Letroy Guion, Brian Robison, Kevin Williams
Linebackers – Jasper Brinkley, Chad Greenway, Erin Henderson, Marvin Mitchell
Cornerbacks – Chris Carr, Chris Cook, Josh Robinson, Antoine Winfield
Safeties – Mistral Raymond, Jamarca Sanford, Harrison Smith
Specialists – Chris Kluwe, Cullen Loeffler, Blair Walsh
This is where it becomes a numbers game. Given the parameters of how 53-man rosters are determined, there is likely going to be a requirement of adding players at specific positions – probably at least four more offensive linemen, two more wide receivers and linebackers, and at least one quarterback, running back/fullback, defensive lineman, cornerback and safety.
In addition to the projection of 37 players who have likely assured themselves roster spots (putting Simpson on the roster even though he won't count during his three-game suspension), there are 11 more that could be viewed in the “more likely than not” category – WR Devin Aromashodu, C Joe Berger, WR Stephen Burton, OT Pat Brown, LB Audie Cole, G Chris DeGeare, FB Jerome Felton, WR Michael Jenkins, LB Tyrone McKenzie, QB Sage Rosenfels and CB Marcus Sherels.
What that leaves, if this scenario plays out, is just five roster spots to go around. Who gets them? QB Bethel McLeod-Thompson is intriguing, as are CB Zack Bowman, DE Jeff Charleston, LB Larry Dean, FB Matt Asiata, LB Solomon Elimimian, RB Lex Hilliard, OT DeMarcus Love, TE Allen Reisner, TE Mickey Shuler and WR Kerry Taylor.
The problem is the numbers are simply too high. The coaching staff and front office see more of the players than fans and even media, so their viewpoints may be coming from a very different place. They’ve seen all these players since May and have likely formed opinions on young players they may not want to risk losing, that a player or two from the Magnificent 48 list may be in jeopardy.
The drop from 90 to 75 roster spots won’t be too difficult for the Vikings. With so many young players on the roster, that set of cuts has essentially made itself. However, the drop to 53 is going to be as difficult as it has been in years.
For the time being, there are 90 guys who can legitimately say that they are Vikings. A week from now, 15 of them will be gone. Four days later, 22 more have to go. It’s an ugly business that often comes down to simply a number’s game.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.