Roster decisions loom as all NFL teams need to get down to 80 players by Tuesday afternoon. The Vikings will then set the initial 53-man roster soon after Friday's exhibition finale in Kansas City; the final cut deadline is Aug. 31.
Young and inexperienced depth at multiple positions makes for a lot of tough calls on this roster. The Vikings' roster stands at the 80-player limit after a wave of moves on Monday, including the signings of defensive end Everson Griffen and running back Ito Smith, and waiving defensive tackle Jordon Scott, quarterback Danny Etling, and linebacker Christian Elliss, and placing defensive end Janarius Robinson on injured reserve.
Kirk Cousins, Kellen Mond
Released: Jake Browning, Nate Stanley, Danny Etling
The Vikings typically keep two quarterbacks on the active roster, and the passers have done little in the preseason to make them keep another. Browning and Stanley (or Etling) could end up on the practice squad as third and fourth options, especially given the continued expanded practice squad rules that allow for 16 players.
RB Dalvin Cook, RB Alexander Mattison, FB C.J. Ham, RB Ameer Abdullah, RB Kene Nwangwu
Released: FB Jake Bargas, RB A.J. Rose Jr.
The only question here is whether the Vikings keep Abdullah, the reliable veteran specialist and third-down back. They could cut him to open a spot for a younger, developing player, but I have them keeping his experience for their green special teams. Both Bargas and Rose Jr. have done enough to warrant practice squad jobs.
Adam Thielen, Justin Jefferson, Dede Westbrook, K.J. Osborn, Chad Beebe, Ihmir Smith-Marsette
Released: Dan Chisena, Whop Philyor, Myron Mitchell
Chisena brings speed on special teams, and that might be enough to keep him if the team finds a cut elsewhere. Smith-Marsette is coming off a strong game as a returner against the Colts. Should coaches trust him for one or both jobs, that could make Abdullah expendable.
Tight ends (3)
Irv Smith Jr., Tyler Conklin, Brandon Dillon
Released: Zach Davidson, Shane Zylstra
Tight ends remain a key component of the Vikings offense under first-year coordinator Klint Kubiak. That means Davidson is a likely practice squad candidate if they don't keep four on the active roster.
Offensive linemen (9)
RT Brian O'Neill, LT Christian Darrisaw, OT Rashod Hill, C Garrett Bradbury, G Oli Udoh, G Ezra Cleveland, C Mason Cole, G Wyatt Davis, OT Blake Brandel
Released: G Dakota Dozier, G Dru Samia, C Cohl Cabral, G Kyle Hinton, OT Zack Bailey, OT Evin Ksiezarczyk
The toughest decisions are among the reserves, where I have the Vikings keeping a new trio in Cole, Davis and Brandel over Dozier and Samia. Cole took reps at guard in the spring and could serve as the swing player at the three interior positions. Coaches quickly decided on Udoh as the starting right guard in camp, casting doubt on Dozier's job security.
Defensive linemen (10)
DE Danielle Hunter, DE D.J. Wonnum, NT Michael Pierce, DT Dalvin Tomlinson, DT Sheldon Richardson, NT Armon Watts, DE Everson Griffen, DE Stephen Weatherly, DE Patrick Jones II, NT James Lynch
Released: DE Jalyn Holmes, DE Hercules Mata'afa, DE Kenny Willekes, DE Zeandae Johnson, DT Jordon Scott
Griffen rejoins the Vikings and a retooled pass rush. He had six sacks in 14 games for the Cowboys and Lions last year, so perhaps a third-down role is in store for the 33-year-old Griffen. Does he replace a veteran like Weatherly? Or complement him? I have the Vikings stockpiling depth among their versatile edge rushers. Lynch, the 2020 fourth-round pick, is likely right on the roster bubble. He made the move to nose tackle this offseason and coaches have been complimentary. With Robinson on I.R., Lynch gets added to this 53-man roster.
SLB Anthony Barr, MLB Eric Kendricks, WLB Nick Vigil, MLB Troy Dye, WLB Chazz Surratt
Released: Blake Lynch, Ryan Connelly, Tuf Borland, Christian Elliss
Six linebackers would be too many after the reserves collectively struggled in camp. Dye, Surratt, and Lynch came through with plays against the Colts, but if Barr is healthy enough for the start of the regular season, the team could try to get his direct backup, Lynch, onto the practice squad.
S Harrison Smith, S Xavier Woods, CB Patrick Peterson, CB Bashaud Breeland, CB Mackensie Alexander, CB Kris Boyd, CB Harrison Hand, CB Cameron Dantzler, S Josh Metellus, and S Camryn Bynum
Released: CB Tye Smith, S Myles Dorn, S Luther Kirk, CB Parry Nickerson
How coaches weigh performance on special teams will be critical in making decisions like the bottom of the secondary depth chart, where Metellus gets the edge here (over a receiver like Chisena). But if coaches think Chisena is the better on coverage phases, maybe he gets the nod over a fellow special teamer like Metellus or Abdullah.
K Greg Joseph, P Britton Colquitt, LS Andrew DePaola
Joseph has had a strong enough camp, and Colquitt rebounded nicely against the Colts, meaning the Vikings might just roll with these three specialists. But they're always just a trade or waiver claim away from that changing.