Top in-house candidates for Vikings practice squad
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The Minnesota Vikings waved goodbye to a few players on Saturday who are not eligible for their 2013 practice squad, but the majority of the cuts can return to serve on the eight-man slate.
Receiver Stephen Burton, offensive tackle Brandon Keith, linebacker Tyrone McKenzie and cornerback Brandon Burton will not return to the Vikings unless picked up to the 53-man roster during the season.
The Vikings will add eight to their practice squad on Sunday. They can work out a deal with any player they cut, but also with any player waived in cuts around the league that is eligible.
Here's a look at the top in-house candidates to return:
RB Joe Banyard
After joining the Vikings practice squad late last season, Banyard impressed in his only offseason with the team. In the fourth preseason game on Thursday, Banyard saw more snaps (46) than he did in the previous three combined (43) and he didn't let it go to waste. On 20 touches (13 rushes, seven receptions), Banyard totaled 116 yards and a touchdown. His struggles came mostly in pass protection when he was oversized against front sevens, but showed an instinctive knack for moving the chains. If he clears waivers, look for Banyard to return to the practice squad. However, Banyard could follow former practice squad-er RB Jordan Todman, who signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars last year after serving three months on the Vikings scrimmage group.
WR Rodney Smith
After signing as an undrafted free agent, Smith averaged 29 yards per reception on three catches in the preseason, including a 35-yard touchdown at the Buffalo Bills. His 6-foot-5, 220-pound frame is the prototypical build you want in a receiver and he should land on the practice squad after limited opportunities in exhibitions.
OL Travis Bond
Potential is the word when it comes to Bond. A 6-foot-7, 330-pound guard, Bond didn't seem to adapt to the NFL speed and techniques as quickly as the team would've liked. Bond dabbled at tackle in offseason programs and his responsibilities were limited in training camp and the preseason. Even at his college position, Bond failed to stick out as his fellow draftee, guard Jeff Baca, excelled at both guard and center. Still, a seventh-round pick in April, "Tree Top" Bond is a project the Vikings should stash on their practice squad when he likely clears waivers.
After being inactive for his rookie season, Reed was activated for six games last year, playing 21 snaps and registering one assisted tackle and one QB pressure. Reed is on the border of eligibility, but can join the practice squad because he has been on the 46-man gameday roster for fewer than nine games in his career. The Vikings selected Reed just before Burton in the seventh round of the 2011 draft.
CB Bobby Felder
Felder could return to the practice squad for the second year in a row after showing improvement in his second full offseason with the Vikings. Felder's 123 preseason snaps ranks among one of the most for any secondary member, but it's his versatility in the return game that kept his chances coming. Aside from 16 tackles and three pass deflections, Felder returned five punts, including a 37-yard return against the Bills.
OL Kevin Murphy
Murphy joined the Vikings days before training camp in 2012 and landed on the practice squad after going undrafted as a rookie out of Harvard. He boasts a 6-foot-7, 305-pound build, but struggled mightily this preseason when faced with decent competition (allowed four QB hurries on 18 snaps at San Francisco). Murphy is a likely candidate to return to the practice squad as a developmental project because you can't teach size.