General manager Rick Spielman has transformed the Minnesota Vikings in recent years with strong drafts and a focus on getting younger. The 2011 draft took a hit as Minnesota cut 22 players Saturday to reach the NFL imposed 53-man roster limit.
Among the cuts were three members of the 2011 draft with two others in limbo. Fifth-round choice Brandon Burton and seventh-round picks D’Aundre Reed and Stephen Burton were released.
Fourth-round defensive tackle Christian Ballard is still on the exempt-left squad list and sixth-round offensive tackle DeMarcus Love is suspended for four games because of performance-enhancing drugs.
Stephen Burton was fighting for one of the final receiving spots on the team and had a strong preseason, but Minnesota chose to keep converted quarterback Joe Webb as the fifth and final receiver on the roster. Burton has played 15 games in his two years for Minnesota with seven career catches for 73 yards and a touchdown.
The athletic Webb, a 2010 sixth-round pick by the team, made the move to receiver in the offseason. Coaches have been pleased with his attitude and work ethic and want to see if they can develop his skills. The Vikings also have Greg Jennings, Jerome Simpson, Jarius Wright and Cordarrelle Patterson at the position.
Brandon Burton, a cornerback, fell down the depth chart as Minnesota added Josh Robinson and A.J. Jefferson last year and Xavier Rhodes this season. Burton has played in 14 games for Minnesota and has nine combined tackles.
The Vikings kept five cornerbacks on the roster with Chris Cook, Robinson, Rhodes, Jefferson and Marcus Sherels. Sherels, originally an undrafted rookie signed out of the team’s rookie minicamp in 2010, when he spent the season on the practice squad.
Sherels continues to make the Minnesota roster despite long odds. His big effort in Thursday’s preseason finale in which he had a 109-yard kickoff return and an interception, sealed up another spot on the roster for Sherels, who has been the team’s top punt returner the past two seasons.
Sherels has likely won the team’s punt return job again after cornerback Bobby Felder, who injured an ankle in Thursday’s game, was released. Felder spent last year on the team’s practice squad.
Matt Asiata earned the final spot at running back with Joe Banyard released. Undrafted rookie Zach Line made the 53-man roster Saturday as a fullback. While tight end Rhett Ellison is expected to mainly fill in for Jerome Felton, who is suspend for three games, Line could see some action at fullback.
Veteran linebacker Tyrone McKenzie was cut, but Minnesota kept eight linebackers on the final roster. The starters are currently Chad Greenway, Erin Henderson and Marvin Mitchell, with Desmond Bishop, Larry Dean, Audie Cole, Gerald Hodges and Michael Mauti as backups. Hodges and Mautie are 2013 draft picks. The Vikings released two of their 2013 draft picks in seventh-round picks Travis Bond, an offensive line, and Everett Dawkins, a defensive tackle.
Guard Seth Olsen was placed on injured reserve after suffering a concussion in Thursday’s game. Felton, Love, Ballard and receiver Greg Childs (physically unable to perform list) don’t count against the current 53-man roster limit.
Tight end Colin Anderson, safety Brandan Bishop, safety Darius Eubanks, tight end Chase Ford, offensive lineman Brandon Keith, defensive tackle Anthony McCloud, offensive lineman Kevin Murphy, defensive lineman Spencer Nealy, wide receiver Rodney Smith, wide receiver Adam Thielen and defensive end Collins Ukwu were also released Saturday.
Minnesota’s current roster features:
Starter: Christian Ponder Backups: Matt Cassel, McLeod Bethel-Thompson
RUNNING BACKS (4)
Starter: Adrian Peterson Backups: Toby Gerhart, Matt Asiata, Zach Line
Starter: Kyle Rudolph, Rhett Ellison (at fullback) Backup: John Carlson
OFFENSIVE LINE (8)
Starters: Left tackle Matt Kalil, left guard Charlie Johnson, center John Sullivan, right guard Brandon Fusco, right tackle Phil Loadholt Backups: Joe Berger, Jeff Baca, Troy Kropog
DEFENSIVE LINE (9)
Starters: left end Brian Robison, defensive tackle Letroy Guion, defensive tackle Kevin Williams, right end Jared Allen Backups: Everson, Griffen, Fred Evans, Sharrif Floyd, George Johnson, Chase Baker
Starters: Strongside Chad Greenway, middle Erin Henderson, weakside Marvin Mitchell Backups: Desmond Bishop, Larry Dean, Audie Cole, Gerald Hodges, Michael Mauti
Starters: Harrison Smith, Jamarca Sanford Backups: Mistral Raymond, Andrew Sendejo, Robert Blanton
Starters: Chris Cook, Josh Robinson Backups: Xavier Rhodes, A.J. Jefferson, Marcus Sherels
Starters: Kicker Blair Walsh, punter Jeff Locke, long snapper Cullen Loeffler