Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman called it before the Vikings' final preseason game. With at least 22 roster moves to make to get to the NFL-mandated 53 players, he knew most of what would happen.
"It will be interesting when you guys see how the final 53 shakes out and where our actual average is, but it's going to drop significantly," he told Viking Update one day before preseason finale.
There wasn't a lot of wiggle room to begin with. He had already purged the roster of TE Visanthe Shiancoe, G Steve Hutchinson, G Anthony Herrera, LB E.J. Henderson and K Ryan Longwell – all long-time veterans of the Vikings and NFL.
But the decisive youth movement continued Friday when the Vikings released QB Sage Rosenfels, age 33; S Eric Frampton, age 28; CB Chris Carr, age 29; and Jeff Charleston, age 29.
There weren't a lot of other options for Spielman to go with his youth movement if he wanted to keep some experience in the starting lineup. The moves leave only seven players on the roster who are 30 or above and two of those – Chris Kluwe (30) and Cullen Loeffler (31) – play special teams.
"I knew when I was named general manager that we had to start making a youth movement and had to get this team younger," Spielman said. "I always have believed in building a team through the draft, implementing some things through free agency or trades if there are unique things out there. But I think to keep your team competitive year in and year out and with the new CBA and the salary cap in place and everything, you have to really be good in the draft and be able to build your team through that draft."
Only two 30-somethings remain on offense and they are essentially backups. Joe Berger (30) will back up John Sullivan at center and can play guard if needed. Michael Jenkins (30) likely will start at receiver during Jerome Simpson's three-game suspension, and Jenkins might not have been kept around if he hadn't slashed his salary by more than 50 percent of what he was scheduled to make – from $2.5 million to $1 million – during training camp.
Defensively, all three of the 30-somethings remaining are key starters. DE Jared Allen (30) is the NFL's defending sack champion, DT Kevin Williams (32) still is a quality starter, and CB Antoine Winfield (35) continues to play at a high level but has had injuries taint his availability the last three years.
All of the emphasis on youth in the last year leaves Leslie Frazier and his coaching staff with a difficult challenge. Both the offensive and defensive schemes are relatively new. Bill Musgrave implemented his offense last year without the benefit of an offseason program to build it slowly. Alan Williams is a first-year defensive coordinator but at least has the advantage of using a very similar scheme to what the Vikings have run since 2006.
But Frazier, entering the second of his three-year coaching contract, stands behind Spielman's decision go young.
"No reservations. I think we're doing the right thing," Frazier said during training camp. "It's just a matter of how soon it all comes together and what parts we have to fill along the way. I know Rick and his staff have to continue to keep their eyes on the waiver wire and see what's out there and see what other ways we can continue to make our team better."
Spielman expects the Vikings to put in multiple claims on the waiver wire, and with the No. 3 position in claiming order he is likely to land a few of those players. However, even those players will have three or fewer years of experience.
The staunch stance to get younger is based on Spielman's studies of consistently successful teams.
"I've looked at every roster. I can tell you that most of the successful teams, a higher percentage of their roster is guys that they've drafted," he said.
"I know that we're young, but I also know that we have some talent. I know that we're going to have to grow and mature and we're going to have to let that process take its course. I honestly believe that it's going to pay off. What you want to look at, and we've seen it already, is where your test is at the beginning of OTAs to where it is now and there has been so much progress made and I give all the credit to the coaches for that because they are the ones that have to develop these guys and get them ready to play and not be afraid to put those guy in to play. But by no means are we where we need to be either. I know we've got a lot of work to go and you want to see that progress continue from Week 1 to Week 8 and continue to the end of the season."
The Vikings entered training camp with 41 new players, including 27 rookies (10 draft picks) and five first-year players.
After the two waves of cuts, they have 16 draft picks over the last two years still on their 53-man roster and another two – WR Greg Childs and OL DeMarcus Love – on injured reserve.
Frazier's words during training camp still pertain after the latest cuts. The bulk of Spielman's roster shaping is done. Now it's up to Frazier's staff to develop what is left.
"This is our roster. This is the group that we made a decision that this is the direction we're going to go," Frazier said of the youth on the team during camp. "You try to bring that team along and develop those guys along the way, especially when you have so many that could potentially start for you and could really have an impact on your team."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Spielman's roster study led to resolute moves
Viking Update Top Stories
Notebook: Problems extended beyond pass proThe Minnesota Vikings had obvious problems with pass protection, but there are other areas head coach Mike Zimmer is addressing, too.
Viking Update7:41 PM
Vikings will look at ‘all options’ to improveComing off a loss that Mike Zimmer termed “embarrassing,” a 21-10 defeat against the Philadelphia Eagles, the Minnesota Vikings will look at all options to rectify the situation.
Viking Update2:42 PM
VIDEO: Zimmer: 'This is a gut-check day'Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer recapped the first loss of the season by pointing out "several dumb things" he found to be uncharacteristic of his team.
Viking Update1:06 PM
Counting snaps: Vikings vs. EaglesDespite a “soft” performance on the offensive line, according to coach Mike Zimmer, the Minnesota Vikings seemed interested in getting a rotation going there.
Viking Update6:23 AM