Vikings release Jenkins, save cap money

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The Minnesota Vikings have made their first move in their expected offseason overhaul of the receiving position.

Minnesota on Tuesday released veteran receiver Michael Jenkins, who last season was third on the team with 449 receiving yards and tied for third with 40 catches. He signed a three-year, $8.75 million deal with the team after the lockout ended in 2011, coming along with offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave from the Atlanta Falcons.

Jenkins, 30, was due a base salary of $825,000, but releasing the slowing veteran now saves Minnesota from paying a $2.425 million roster bonus he would be due if he were still on the roster March 16. Last year, Jenkins agreed to a pay cut in a contract renegotiation, paying him less last season but helping his chances of making the final roster. In the renegotiation, Jenkins’ bonus due this season elevated, making his release likely heading into this offseason with the open of the new league year’s business on March 12.

Minnesota is expected to make moves this offseason to upgrade its receiving unit and give developing quarterback Christian Ponder more pieces to work with. The Vikings currently have five receivers under contract for 2013. Jerome Simpson and Devin Aromashodu will be unrestricted free agents when free agency opens March 12.

Leading receiver Percy Harvin is reportedly unhappy with the team, and behind Harvin the team is left with Jarius Wright, Stephen Burton, Greg Childs and Chris Summers. Wright emerged as one of Minnesota’s top receivers last year, but Burton has seven catches in two seasons, Childs is still recovering from tearing both patellar tendons in training camp last year and Summers was on the team’s practice squad.

The Vikings could look to address the position in the draft, where they hold the No. 23 selection in the first round.

Coaching changes: The Vikings did announce a pair of minor coaching moves on Monday. According to the team’s website, Ryan Ficken is the team’s new assistant special teams coach and Jeff Howard was hired as an assistant to the head coach.

Ficken assumes the role left vacant by Chris White, who left to coach at the University of Iowa. Howard replaces Cam Turner, who took a job at Florida International University where his dad, Ron, is the head coach.

Vikings set their summer calendar: Minnesota will open its offseason program, tentatively, on May 3.

The Vikings will hold their annual rookie minicamp following the draft, scheduled for May 3-5. The offseason organized team activities begin on May 28 and continue through the team’s mandatory minicamp, which is scheduled June 18-20.

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