Minnesota finalizes team roster
MINNEAPOLIS — Vikings mainstays Fred Evans and Jamarca Sanford were pushed aside Saturday.
Sanford can’t play for the Vikings this season and could be released in several weeks if he becomes healthy from a quad injury.
Trimming the roster from 75, the Vikings made moves on 21 players. Wide receiver Jerome Simpson is suspended for the first three games of the season and won’t count on the active roster, for now.
Two of the 19 players released — Chris Crocker and Kurt Coleman — had been battling for the starting job at strong safety. Crocker, 34, had been the team’s oldest player.
Including Evans, the Vikings released seven holdovers from last season. The others were running back Joe Banyard, who led the team in rushing during the preseason, tight end Chase Ford, defensive tackle Chase Baker, defensive end Justin Trattou, guard Jeff Baca and tackle Mike Remmers.
Others let go were wide receivers Kain Colter and Donte Foster, linebackers Mike Zimmer and Justin Jackson, cornerbacks Kendall James and Julian Posey, tight end Allen Reisner, running back Dominique Williams, defensive tackle Isame Faciane and center Zac Kerin.
The Vikings also placed undrafted rookie tackle Antonio Richardson on season-ending injured reserve. Richardson has knee problems and is expected to need to undergo a procedure.
Letting Evans go was a bit of a surprise because he was re-signed after first-year coach Mike Zimmer replaced Leslie Frazier. Evans, 30, had been tied with Adrian Peterson for third on the team in longevity, behind Cullen Loeffler, who arrived in 2004, and Chad Greenway, drafted in 2006.
Evans’ departure leaves Shamar Stephen, a seventh-round pick last May, as the likely backup at nose tackle behind Linval Joseph.
Sanford not making the 53-man roster was not a surprise. A starter the past three seasons, he was forced to take a pay cut in March and hasn’t shown the new coach much. He missed spring drills with a groin strain and during the preseason had a back problem before suffering his quad injury Aug. 23 at Kansas City.
“I’m kind of frustrated right now, so I don’t want to talk,” Sanford said Saturday.
Sanford’s 2014 salary was cut from $2.45 million to $1.75 million, with $400,000 guaranteed. He will continue to draw a paycheck, and some sort of settlement could be reached when he becomes healthy.
James, a sixth-round pick, was the only draftee who didn’t make the team, while tackle Austin Wentworth was the only undrafted rookie to earn a spot on the 53-man roster. However, the Vikings, with players clearing waivers Sunday, still could make moves to sign players let go by other teams.
Also Sunday, the 10-man practice roster will be assembled. Colter, an undrafted rookie who played mostly quarterback at Northwestern, anticipates being on it.
“They want me on the practice squad if I clear waivers,” Colter said. “I’m excited. It’s a great opportunity and a chance for me to keep working on my craft.”
A source said Banyard will join the practice squad for a second straight year if not claimed by another team. He led the Vikings during the preseason with 212 rushing yards, including 111 while playing just the first half in Thursday’s preseason finale at Tennessee.
A source said Williams also has received a practice squad invitation.
The Vikings kept three running backs in Peterson, Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon and two fullbacks in Jerome Felton and Zach Line.
As expected, the Vikings kept a third quarterback in Christian Ponder. They kept just two tight ends in Kyle Rudolph and Rhett Ellison but soon might pick up another.
Wide receivers Adam Thielen and Rodney Smith both made the roster, but it remains to be seen what will happen when Simpson returns.
The Vikings have no shortage of depth on the offensive line. They kept nine, including reserves Wentworth, Joe Berger, Vlad Ducasse and rookie David Yankey.
On defense, much of the recent suspense has been finding a starter at strong safety. With Crocker, Coleman and Sanford out of the picture, Robert Blanton, who was No. 1 on the depth chart entering the preseason before suffering a hamstring strain, likely will be the starter.
Crocker joined the Vikings on Aug. 4 after spending the past seven years under Zimmer when he was defensive coordinator at Atlanta and Cincinnati. Crocker recently said Zimmer would be straight with him if “he doesn’t think that I’m fit to cut it.”
Zimmer has 15 new players and 38 holdovers on his roster. That excludes newcomer Richardson and Frazier holdovers Simpson and Sanford.
The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.