Vikings by position, Day 6: Lot of cash, cap tied up in two d-linemen
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Each weekday until the NFL Draft begins on April 26, Tom Pelissero is breaking down the Minnesota Vikings' roster by position, based on observations of games and practice, weekly tape studies and interviews with NFL coaches and scouts.
On the roster (8)
Remi Ayodele (released).
Coming off a career season in which he recorded 22 sacks, Allen (6-foot-6, 270 pounds) is ripe for restructuring, with a base salary of $11,619,850 and cap number in excess of $14.2 million on a contract that expires after the 2013 season. But the rebuilding Vikings no doubt are reluctant to commit significant new money to a 30-year-old right end whose heavy workload -- he played 94.5% of the defensive snaps last season -- may hasten his eventual decline. Williams (6-5, 311) already is on the downslide, although he fought through plantar fasciitis to remain productive (five sacks, 14 tackles for loss) in his ninth NFL season. He's due $7.5 million in each of the three remaining years on his deal and has a 2012 cap number of $8,416,670 -- awfully hefty for a three-technique penetrator who has lost a step and turns 32 in August. Robison (6-3, 259) proved he can be an effective left end in his first season as starter, recording eight sacks and 54 total QB pressures in 895 snaps (82.7%). The Vikings want to reduce Robison's workload, too -- perhaps to the benefit of Griffen (6-3, 273), who had four sacks and 14 QB pressures in limited action (25.3%) last season. Griffen's a beast on coverage units when he's locked in as well. Guion (6-4, 303) never got going in his fourth season, but he's still only 24, is quick off the ball and might have been hurt by splitting his time between undertackle and nose. He signed a three-year, $9 million deal last month that included $2.5 million in guarantees to be the starting nose tackle. Evans (6-4, 305) remains the top backup there after signing a two-year deal that includes $1.5 million in the first year. He's wildly inconsistent but so athletic the Vikings keep bringing him back. Ballard (6-4, 283) figures to work inside and outside again after a quiet rookie season. Reed (6-4, 261) never suited up but was unblockable at times in practice. Both figure to factor more heavily with the help of a full offseason.
This still is one of the more talented groups in the NFL, but it remains to be seen if Guion can stabilize the nose tackle position and if Ballard can be Williams' successor at the three-technique. The Vikings have had a lot of success drafting defensive linemen in the middle rounds. It wouldn't be a surprise if they address the interior with one of their three fourth-round picks this year -- or perhaps even pounce sooner if they feel they can get a bargain at the nose.
Last 10 drafts
• 2011: Ballard (fourth round, 106th overall), Reed (seventh, 215th).
• 2010: Griffen (fourth, 100th).
• 2009: None.
• 2008: Guion (fifth, 152nd).
• 2007: Robison (fourth, 102nd).
• 2006: Ray Edwards (fourth, 127th).
• 2005: Erasmus James (first, 18th); C.J. Mosley (sixth, 191st).
• 2004: Kenechi Udeze (first, 20th).
• 2003: Williams (first, ninth).
• 2002: None.
According to various reports, the Vikings have visited with Chase Baker (Boise State) and Dontari Poe (Memphis).
• Mel Kiper, ESPN: Ends -- 1. Melvin Ingram, South Carolina. 2. Quinton Coples, North Carolina. 3. Chandler Jones, Syracuse. 4. Whitney Mercilus, Illinois. 5. Andre Branch, Clemson. Defensive tackles -- 1. Poe. 2. Michael Brockers, LSU. 3. Fletcher Cox, Mississippi State. 4. Jerel Worthy, Michigan State. 5. Derek Wolfe, Cincinnati.
• Mike Mayock, NFL Network: Ends -- 1. Coples. 2. Courtney Upshaw, Alabama. 3. Nick Perry, Southern California. 4. Jones. 5. Vinny Curry, Marshall. Defensive tackles -- 1. Cox. 2. Worthy. 3. Brockers. 4. Poe. T5. Kendall Reyes, Connecticut. T5. Devon Still, Penn State.
• Shawn Zobel, DraftHeadquarters.com: Ends -- 1. Coples. 2. Perry. 3. Mercilus. 4. Curry. 5. Jones. Defensive tackles -- 1. Poe. 2. Cox. 3. Brockers. 4. Still. 5. Worthy.