We continue our path down the draft order looking at the current projected starters based on who the team has under contract right now.
The Vikings are one of several teams to have cleared out the coaching staff after their disappointing season and new coach Mike Zimmer will be working along with incumbent GM Rick Spielman to patch the holes in the roster that have become significant in places.
Here’s how the current lineup, after removing the Unrestricted Free Agents, shakes out:
– Player markers are colored per class on a six-step ‘Poor’ to ‘High Quality’ scale based on their overall performance and the league’s elite are marked separately in blue.
– Colored outlines suggest a potential change in class.
– Underlined players will be 30+ years old for the 2014 season.
– Red player names suggest injury risks.
– Click on the image to enlarge.
– Adrian Peterson is now the lone blue-chip stud on the roster, but his success depends on the quality of the blocking in front of him ironing out the kinks and living up to their potential rather than their mean performances.
– The once formidable Vikings defense has been eroded over time and now faces a serious dearth of talent. Only three of the eleven projected starters rank as solid or above.
– Cordarrelle Patterson showed fantastic potential as a rookie making plays both as a kick returner, but also as a wide out and running the football. With Jerome Simpson a free agent we’ve projected Patterson to step into the starting lineup and believe he has the potential to be special.
– Kyle Rudolph is another player with the potential to jump not one but two colors. In terms of skill set he might be the closest player in the league to Rob Gronkowski as he showed as a rookie, but remains far too inconsistent to be ranked above adequate starter at this point.
2014 Cap Situation
Healthy. The Vikings have one of the best in the business when it comes to cap management in the form of Rob Brzezinski who enters his sixteenth year with the team in 2014.
The team wants to build through the draft but with somewhere more than $25M worth of cap space they can also afford to target key free agents if they see a better fix there. This is a roster that likely needs to patch holes using both.
The way the NFL arranges player contracts there is rarely a team that can’t shave some cap space by offloading a bloated deal that has passed its ‘sell by’ date. Letroy Guion was always miscast as a nose tackle in the 4-3 Minnesota has been using, and the team could save $4M by jettisoning his $4.3m salary this offseason (per overthecap.com). Maybe he would have more joy in Mike Zimmer’s new defense, but the Vikings would be better off clearing his contract and bringing him back afresh to find out.
Chad Greenway might be one of the biggest leaders on that defense, but the team could make a $4.8 million savings by cutting him. At the very least he may be in line for a re-structure given his slip in performance, because on 2013’s display he isn’t justifying his $8.2M cap number.
Adrian Peterson is, of course, in no danger of being cut, but he has a $14.4M cap number this year and Minnesota would save nearly $10M by doing so.
Opportunities from the Roster
The Vikings have a hole on the O-line at left guard, and the team has a history of trying to give that job to somebody they have developed themselves. They did exactly that last season when Brandon Fusco was handed the job over Geoff Schwartz despite the tape suggesting Schwartz should have earned the job on merit. Fusco struggled in his first season starting but in 2013 was vastly improved. Jeff Baca played more preseason snaps than any other Minnesota offensive lineman in 2013, all at left guard, so could well be given the chance to start there in 2014. His preseason grade suggests, however, that unless he can speed his development up somewhat he may experience a similar rough transition period to Fusco.
With Erin Henderson being cut there is going to be an opportunity at linebacker for several of Minnesota’s recent draft picks. Audie Cole is likely to get the first shot at middle linebacker while Gerald Hodges among others could win himself a job on the strong side.
Projected lineups by team:
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