5 Minnesota Vikings Who Will Be on the Roster Bubble in 2014
The Minnesota Vikings suffered a dramatic setback in 2013, finishing 5-10-1 after making the playoffs in 2012 with a 10-6 record.
Several players who were anticipated to have breakout years fell flat, and the team floundered in disappointment all season.
As a result, head coach Leslie Frazier was fired from the club and general manager Rick Spielman has been tasked to find his replacement.
Similar to Frazier, there are players currently under contract in 2014 who are at risk of not returning next season. This could be a result of poor performance, an expensive contract or combination of both.
The following list of players does not include free agents whose contracts expired at the end of 2013, such as Jared Allen, Kevin Williams and Chris Cook.
Let's take a look at five players on the roster bubble for the Vikings heading into the 2014 season.
TE John Carlson
John Carlson has been a huge disappointment since joining the Vikings and has struggled with injuries along the way. His five-year, $25 million contract has proven to be a considerably poor investment with little return in offensive numbers.
Over two years, Carlson has posted 40 receptions for 387 yards and just one touchdown. He played 13 games this season before being placed on injured reserve after suffering the third concussion of his career.
Carlson is set to contribute a cap hit of $5 million in 2014, with $3 million as dead money. The cap hit will be $6 million in both 2015 and 2016, with dead money of $2 million and $1 million, respectively.
Although the Vikings cannot completely dump Carlson's contract, he will likely be on the bubble as a long-term savings. Poor performance, injuries and a bloated contract are never a recipe for success on a team's roster.
DT Letroy Guion
Letroy Guion was originally drafted by the Vikings in the fifth round of the 2008 NFL draft and has had limited success throughout his career.
Brought in as a development project, Guion has yet to help revive the dominant rushing defense that Minnesota enjoyed with Pat and Kevin Williams forming the "Williams Wall."
In fact, Guion has failed to outperform his counterpart Fred Evans at nose tackle, who made less than him in 2013. The cap hit for Guion was $3 million, while it was $1.75 million for Evans.
According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Guion was the 60th ranked player among all defensive tackles who saw at least 25 percent of their team's snaps.
Evans, on the other hand, ranked 46th.
Guion is scheduled to earn $3.95 million in base salary in 2014, with a potential cap hit of $4.5 million. With only $500,000 of that as dead money, the Vikings would be better served releasing him and targeting Evans, who is an unrestricted free agent.
CB Josh Robinson
The Vikings defense in 2013 was simply awful, allowing the most points per game in the league (30.0) and ranking second to last with the most passing yards allowed per game (287.2).
A big reason for this terrible showing was the secondary—specifically cornerback Josh Robinson.
According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Robinson ranked 99th among all cornerbacks who saw 25 percent of their team's snaps. He allowed a quarterback rating of 127.0 for passes into his coverage, which was the fourth highest.
Robinson signed a four-year, $3.025 million contract as a rookie in 2012. He's set to earn a modest $627,000 in base salary in 2014, with a potential cap hit of $811,250 after bonuses.
Considering the price, Robinson will likely make it far through training camp and could at least serve as a backup for the Vikings.
However, depending on free agency and the draft, as well as the Vikings current roster, he should still be fighting for a spot on the final 53-man roster.
S Mistral Raymond
Mistral Raymond is another player on the Vikings secondary who may be in danger when final cuts are made prior to the 2014 season.
With the injury to Harrison Smith, Raymond was surpassed by fellow safety Andrew Sendejo for the starting role, a player who was on the bubble himself in 2012.
Since that season, Raymond has watched both Jamarca Sanford and Sendejo move up the depth chart on him. Even Robert Blanton held his own in limited snaps.
According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Raymond saw only 202 snaps in 2013 and ranked 145th out of all 171 cornerbacks who saw the field. The 2012 season was no improvement, ranking 158th out of 163.
Raymond's contract is not a problem for Minnesota, as the sixth-round draft pick signed a four-year, $2.138 million contract in 2011. He's only scheduled to earn $645,000 next season, with $24,483 in dead money.
The decision to keep Raymond will rely solely on other positions of need and whether the Vikings decide to squeeze in another defender who has played as poorly as Raymond over the past two years.
QB Christian Ponder
The final bubble player should be no surprise to Vikings fans.
After the three-ring circus that existed at the quarterback position in 2013, general manager Rick Spielman will have some difficult decisions to make for next season.
And the first doesn't even start with Ponder. The most likely projected starter for next season is Matt Cassel, who has a duel option on his contract that both he and the team must agree to.
If Cassel returns for the Vikings in 2014 and Spielman decides to select a quarterback in the upcoming draft (which he should), it's hard to justify keeping Ponder around, even if he provides depth.
The former No. 12 pick in 2011 is under contract in 2014 for a base salary of $1.76 million and signing bonus of $1.472 million. The problem is that this portion of the contract is guaranteed, so his potential cap hit of $3.232 million is also dead money for Minnesota.
Ultimately, the Vikings may just want to part ways with Ponder as a clean break for both him and the team. A clear direction is needed for 2014, which Cassel and a quarterback prospect could provide.
Once a head coach is selected and the remaining coaching staff assembled, Ponder should know his fate relatively soon.
Matthew Stensrud is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter and Google+.
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