5 Minnesota Vikings Whose Jobs Could Be in Danger
Now that the NFL draft and the main stage of free agency has come and gone, it's time for the Minnesota Vikings to evaluate their talent and shape their roster. Coming off an abysmal 3-13 performance in 2011, the team decided to cut its losses and enter rebuilding mode.
Going into the draft, the team had 68 players on its roster (now 67 with the release of Caleb King). Add on the Vikings' 10 draft picks and 15 free agent signings, and the Vikings have 93 players, 40 more than what the final roster will look like.
The 2012 Vikings are playing for the future. By releasing older veterans Anthony Herrera, Steve Hutchinson and Cedric Griffin, as well as not retaining others such as Visanthe Shiancoe and E.J. Henderson, it appears the team will be considerably younger than last year.
While the Vikings are retaining their core talent (Jared Allen, Chad Greenway, etc.), there are still plenty of roster spots that aren't secure. Here are five players on the Vikings that may be on the way out during the team's youth movement.
This one probably won't be a huge impact on the Vikings given that they hardly use a fullback, but regardless, Ryan D'Imperio may be out of a job before the team opens its season against Jacksonville in September.
D'Imperio has done little while on the Vikings roster. In 12 games played last season, he only had two catches for 7 yards while providing poor blocking.
Although he is still young and could contribute on special teams, he probably stands little chance. There are a lot of young players that will be fighting for special teams spots, and the Vikings will most likely keep the ones that can play a skill position also.
While fullback isn't the biggest part of the Vikings offense, the team did bring in veteran blocker Jerome Felton and drafted FB-TE combo Rhett Ellison in the fourth round of this year's draft.
The team will likely only keep one fullback and the more experienced Felton might have the edge here.
D'Imperio has every right to fight for his spot on the roster, but it'll probably be from the outside looking in.
It seemed not too long ago that the Vikings roster had little to no depth at the wide receiver position, but that quickly changed. A week before the draft, the team signed free agent Jerome Simpson from Cincinnati, and then went on to draft Arkansas teammates Jarius Wright and Greg Childs in the fourth round.
After signing a one-year deal with the team last offseason, Devin Aromashodu signed another one-year contract this year. In 2011, he caught only 26 passes for 468 yards, equaling an impressive 18 yards per catch average, but he also had his share of dropped passes.
With another free agent in Simpson and two rookies with potential, Aromashodu may have slid too far down the depth chart to make the team this year. The one thing that might compel the team to keep him is that he is a decent blocking receiver. In the end, he just doesn't seem to be part of the team's long-term plans.
Jamarca Sanford may still be in the final 53-man roster, but chances are he won't be starting at safety anymore.
With the additions of three defensive backs in the draft and the return of both Antoine Winfield and Chris Cook, the Vikings defensive backfield might look more different than any other part of the team in 2012.
Sanford played in 15 games last season recording 75 tackles and two interceptions as part of one of the worst pass defenses in NFL history. Because of the team's lack of options at safety, Sanford became one of the starters Week 1.
The main reason he stayed on the field was the fact that the team didn't have anyone healthy enough to replace him.
This year, the team will most likely start first-round pick Harrison Smith at one spot, while Sanford will end up battling with second-year player Mistral Raymond and rookie Robert Blanton for the other spot.
Raymond might be the favorite for the other starting spot, but Sanford will probably still make the opening day roster.
After posting his worst season as a Viking, Ryan Longwell might find himself in the hot seat: In the sixth round of this year's draft, the Vikings selected former Georgia Bulldogs kicker Blair Walsh.
Although Walsh wasn't the most accurate kicker in college, his strong leg could prove to be a big upgrade for the Vikings—Longwell was among the worst in the league at touchbacks last season despite a change in rules that moved kickoffs up five yards.
Getting a young kicker with a big leg would definitely benefit special teams on kickoffs.
In this rebuilding year, it would make sense to give the opportunity to a young kicker who could be with the team for a long time as opposed to keeping an aging veteran who seems to be experiencing a decline in leg strength.
In addition to possibly locking up their kicker of the future, they'd be off the hook for Longwell's larger contract.
This will be an interesting battle to watch during the preseason. It doesn't seem like the team will keep both to have a kickoff specialist, so Longwell might not make the cut.
Besides, the last time he posted a season as bad as 2011, the Packers chose not to bring him back.
Much like Devin Aromashodu, Michael Jenkins might have slid too far down the depth chart to be relevant to this team in 2012.
Jenkins proved to be a reliable target for quarterback Christian Ponder last season before suffering a torn meniscus that landed him on injured reserve.
Whether or not he remains on the roster going into the season depends on what his role will be. Jenkins is the type of receiver who can get open in zone coverage and make routine catches, but he isn't really much of a big deep threat and is going to be 30 at the start of the season.
Does the team like him as a dependable option, or do they feel that there is someone younger that can fill this role?
Rookie Greg Childs might be an option that could overtake his spot on the depth chart. He's a big-bodied receiver who can go up and get the ball when it's thrown toward him. He seems like he could be a deep threat and a good option in the red zone.
Because he's pretty consistent, Jenkins will probably make the team heading into the season. However, his role might lessen once Jerome Simpson returns from his three-game suspension.
This offseason looks to be full of position battles for the Vikings and wide receiver might just end up being the biggest one.