To the surprise of no one aware of the Vikings' salary-cap situation and desire to get younger, the team released veteran starting guards Steve Hutchinson and Anthony Herrera, as well as cornerback Cedric Griffin, the team confirmed Saturday.
The team's personnel decision-makers met Saturday to finalize their roster plans, and Hutchinson and Herrera were natural candidates to be on the chopping bblock with their age and salary. Hutchinson, an 11-year veteran of the NFL who missed the final two games of 2011 and five more games in 2010 with injuries, was scheduled to cost the Vikings $7 million in salary-cap space.
Hutchinson told the Vikings he would like to play at least one more season.
Herrera missed four games in 2011, six in 2010 and two in 2009. By releasing him, the Vikings will save about $2.7 million.
Hutchinson, a seven-time Pro Bowl player, has served as a Vikings' captain for the past five seasons and has blocked for 1,000-yard rushers 10 times in his 11-year career – Adrian Peterson missed the 1,000-yard mark in 2011 because of a knee injury that took him out of the final four games of the season.
The Vikings infamously acquired Hutchinson in 2006, when they made him an offer sheet with a "poison pill" that effectively took his former team, the Seattle Seahawks, out of the running to re-sign him. The contract clause called for him to be the highest paid offensive lineman on his team (the Seahawks were already paying left tackle Walter Jones handsomely).
"It was a tough decision as we move forward and prepare for the upcoming season and the future of our organization," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said in a statement. "All three individuals have meant a great deal to the Vikings organization both on and off field over the years. We wish all of them the best and thank them for their service to the Minnesota Vikings."
With the third pick in the draft, Minnesota is in position to select highly rated left tackle Matt Kalil, which would allow the Vikings to slide veteran offensive lineman Charlie Johnson inside to one of the guard positions previously manned by Hutchinson and Herrera.
While Hutchinson and Herrera had just the 2012 season left on their contracts, Griffin had three more season on the contract extension he signed in 2009. He was due to make $4.1 million in base salary in 2012, with that escalating up to $5.45 million in 2014. His release could save the Vikings up to $3.1 million in 2012 salary-cap dollars this year and takes a combined $10.9 million off their cap over the 2013 and 2014 seasons.
All total, the three moves are expected to give the Vikings close to an additional $13 million in salary cap room and is expected to give them more than $20 million in salary cap space when free agency opens at 3 p.m. Tuesday afternoon.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
Vikings release Hutchinson, Herrera, Griffin
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