Derrick Pope (Scott Boehm/Getty)
The NFL is only requiring teams to trim their rosters to 75 players by Tuesday afternoon, with the big roster trimming taking place on Saturday, but the Vikings went to work Monday, cutting LB Derrick Pope and three others.
The Vikings parted ways with veteran middle linebacker Derrick Pope on Monday, one of four cuts the team made as they worked their roster down to the NFL-mandated 75 players by the Tuesday deadline.
The team also released offensive tackles Sean Dumford and Brock Pasteur – two players that were signed in the middle of training camp as injuries took their toll – and wide receiver Daniel Davis.
The moves put the Vikings at 75 players with a bigger roster cutdown looming on Saturday.
The NFL has received some complaints from its coaches about the reduction of players on training camp rosters thanks to NFL Europe exemptions going away following the folding of the league. But, for the coaches who need to evaluate players on the bubble, the new cutdown rules enacted a couple of years ago have made that process easier and more educated than in the past.
Prior to 2006, the first cut-downs typically happened after the second preseason game and, prior to the final cut-downs, rosters were trimmed to 65 players before making its way down to the final 53-man roster. That has changed and changed significantly.
Tuesday’s cut-down date will reduce rosters by a mere five players – thanks to injuries, the Vikings only had to release four players – by 3 p.m. Central. They beat that by about a day. The big cuts will come Saturday, when rosters will have to be trimmed from 75 to 53, by 10 a.m. Central. More than 600 players will go from being NFL players to being unemployed.
The upside is that those players will have more film for other teams to see of them in action, but it has changed how the cuts happen significantly. It has taken much of the drama out of the initial cut-down period, in which many of the names that will hit the waiver wire won’t be remotely familiar to the casual fan. It will also make a Saturday “Black Saturday” for the NFL, as scores of veterans and undrafted rookies alike find themselves on the chopping block.
Don’t expect many surprises around the league as the first batch of cuts continue to come. The fireworks won’t come until this weekend, but look for some big names and some surprises to be among the second round of releases.
After Saturday’s game, QB Tarvaris Jackson said his knee is feeling better, but is unsure whether the Vikings will take any chances with him and try to play him against Dallas Thursday in the preseason finale.
The Vikings have a very short practice week. After an off-day Sunday, the team will practice today and tomorrow before leaving for Dallas Wednesday for Thursday night’s game.
Vikings fans can sympathize with the plight of the defending champion New York Giants when it comes to their defensive end questions. A year ago, the Vikings had Kenechi Udeze, Erasmus James and Darrion Scott listed as their top defensive ends and none of the three are on the active 2008 Vikings roster. The Giants won the title with Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora as their starting DEs. A year later, both are gone – Strahan has retired and Umenyiora is likely out for the season with a torn knee ligament.
Something to keep an eye on over the next couple of weeks is the contract status of some veteran players entering the final year of their contracts. Often times, teams will have a self-imposed deadline of Week 1 of the regular season to get contract extensions done. Such practices are usually viewed as a distraction during the season, which is why so many deals get struck in the days leading up to the opener. The Vikings have a candidate for such an extension in Matt Birk, but, to date, there has been little discussion of a contract extension and, for now anyway, it appears as though Birk could play out his contract and be eligible for free agency next March.
The Cleveland Browns, like the Vikings, sacrificed much of their 2008 draft to make a run for the Super Bowl through trades. The Vikings gave up three pick in last April’s draft to get Jared Allen, but the Browns have done them one better. Not only did Cleveland trades picks in the first, second of third rounds of the 2008 draft, the team has already committed to trading their third-, fifth- and seventh-round picks in 2009.