Zulgad: A six pack of observations and facts from Vikings' cut day
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The Vikings cut their roster to the regular-season limit of 53 players on Saturday. Here are five observations and facts regarding the team's decisions.
The surprise(s) cuts
Veterans Chris Crocker and Fred Evans would top this list.
Crocker was signed in early August and the initial expectation was that he stood an excellent chance of winning the starting strong safety job opposite free safety Harrison Smith.
Crocker was out of football when the Vikings called, but he had spent the past six years with the Cincinnati Bengals, the team for which new Vikings coach MIke Zimmer had served as defensive coordinator, and the two also were together in 2007 with Atlanta.
This meant Crocker had an understanding of exactly what Zimmer wanted on defense and the thought was that his presence in the secondary would make him an on-the-field coach. But the 34-year-old clearly did not show he had enough left to warrant sticking on the final 53.
The move leaves the Vikings with three safeties besides Smith: Andrew Sendejo, Robert Blanton and rookie Antone Exum. Blanton appeared to be the favorite to win the strong safety job early in camp but a hamstring injury forced him to miss substantial time.
The only logical thought is that the Vikings have a plan here and it's going to unfold in the coming days. Zimmer has mentioned that cornerback Shaun Prater can play safety but that is more of an option to add depth than it is a solution.
Evans signed with the Vikings in 2007 after one season with the Miami Dolphins. Primarily a backup at tackle during his time in Minnesota, he saw plenty of playing time in the team's defensive-line rotation.
Evans played in all 16 games in 2011 and 2012 before appearing in 14 games last season and starting a career-high three times. Evans' departure means Zimmer liked what he saw in Shamar Stephen, the first of the Vikings' three seventh-round picks in May.
Rodney Smith is the primary beneficiary of the NFL's decision to uphold a three-game suspension to wide receiver Jerome Simpson for a drunken-driving arrest last November. (Simpson's suspension didn't hurt Adam Thielen's chances of sticking on the roster either.)
Smith, who is 6-foot-5, 220 pounds, finished fifth on the Vikings in the preseason with six receptions for 77 yards and a touchdown.
Simpson had 48 receptions for a career-high 726 yards last season but will be playing on a one-year, $1 million deal and isn't owed any guaranteed money this season.
That means that if Smith can show the coaching staff something in the opening three weeks of the season that Simpson might not be assured of a roster spot when he is eligible to return.
Never a worry
There was speculation during training camp that fullback Jerome Felton was in trouble because new offensive coordinator Norv Turner might not have much use for the position. Not only did Felton make the final 53, but the Vikings also kept second-year fullback Zach Line, who played in three games last season and even started once. Line signed with the Vikings as an undrafted free agent in 2013.
Only one gone
Sixth-round cornerback Kendall James (Maine) was the only member of the Vikings' 2014 draft class to not make the roster.
Surviving the cut were linebacker Anthony Barr (first round); quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (first round); defensive end Scott Crichton (third round); running back Jerick McKinnon (third round); guard David Yankey (fifth round); safety Antone Exum (sixth round); defensive tackle Shamar Stephen (seventh round); linebacker Brandon Watts (seventh round); and cornerback Jabari Price (seventh round).
Left tackle Antonio Richardson, who was signed as an undrafted free agent out of Tennessee, was placed on injured reserve and will need surgery on both knees. Richardson battled a knee issue throughout training camp.
How many moves might be coming?
The Vikings almost certainly are going to have to do something at safety, so a roster move could be coming there.
Keep in mind, once the cuts were done, general manager Rick Spielman and Zimmer, among others, went to work to see who had been cut elsewhere and might potentially help the Vikings.
As far as players the Vikings now might cut to make room for a newcomer, there is a strategy here.
If a team really likes a young player, they will often wait until the day after cuts are due to jettison that guy. The theory is that by Sunday teams are so busy setting their practice squads and squaring things away, that they are less likely to make another move with their own 53 to add what essentially amounts to a prospect.