Trouble on the bubble? Offensive players

The Vikings will start getting into the nitty-gritty of offseason practices next week when organized team activities begin. That's when players on the roster bubble will have to start showing they can earn their keep. Here are five offensive players from last year's roster that could be in trouble this year, with salary, playing time and production all factors.

With 24 rookies on the roster and 23 more first- and second-year players, the inevitable annual roster churn in Minnesota is only a little more than three months away.

Between now and the end of August, the Vikings will have to cut their roster from the league maximum of 90 – they already cut undrafted rookie Mark Jackson on Tuesday but likely will refill that spot – to 53 for the season.

The means several veterans that were part of the roster won't be this year. Here are the ones we see needing a good offseason and preseason in order to maintain employment with the Vikings through September:

WR Joe Webb – Webb spent the majority of his first three years with the Vikings as a quarterback, but there was always the question and temptation to move him to receiver if he didn't succeed at quarterback. After a dismal performance filling in for Christian Ponder in the playoffs, the decision has been made – Webb will move back to receiver. It's the position at which he started his professional career, but that lasted only one minicamp. After then-head coach Brad Childress saw Webb's arm, he moved him to quarterback, the position at which he finished his college career. It seems that Webb is a tremendous athlete whose skills don't necessarily transfer successfully to one specific position in the NFL. He is fast, but can he run precise routes? He is big and can leap, but can he consistently catch the ball? Last year, with Percy Harvin hurt, Michael Jenkins slowing and Devin Aromashodu a non-factor, Webb might have had a chance at receiver. This year, with Greg Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson leading the way, Webb will be fighting to keep catching a paycheck.

WR Stephen Burton – To look at the receiving stats, it would seem that Burton hardly played in 2012. He had only five catches for 35 yards. However, he played in 16 percent of the offensive snaps. The Vikings like him as a big-bodied (6-foot-1, 224 pounds) blocker, but eventually he has to be a threat in the passing game, too, or he just becomes a "tell" on the run-pass play-calling. He is entering his third season in the NFL, a time when receivers are supposed to flourish. He will have to do that in the preseason to make it to the regular season. The fate of Burton and/or Webb could also be tied to the recovery of Greg Childs. If Childs is able to beat the odds and play in 2013 after two torn patellar tendons last August, it would further crowd the receiving corps.

OL DeMarcus Love – Love has spent an injury-riddled two seasons on the Vikings roster – 2011 on the 53-man roster and 2012 on injured reserve. Last year, he spent the entire season on injured reserve and the Vikings bolstered their offensive line depth with two more draft picks. In 2011, Love was inactive for every game, meaning the former sixth-round pick still hasn't played in a regular-season game. He has enough talent to become a viable backup tackle, but he needs to stay healthy and on top of his conditioning in order to make it happen in 2013.

OL Joe Berger – The Vikings have slashed a lot of veteran salaries. Berger is signed for the veteran minimum $905,000 and counts only $620,000 against the cap, so that NFL loophole to help save veteran jobs just might work in his case. He played in only three offensive snaps last year, but did contribute in 32 percent of the special teams snaps. So what's holding back the eighth-year pro and 30 year old from more time on offense? He is John Sullivan's backup, and although Sullivan dealt with a calf injury in 2011, he is a tough-guy center that doesn't come out for minor injuries. What's working in Berger's favor is that there isn't another true backup center on the roster, just guards who could play center in a pinch.

TE John Carlson – Let's preface this by saying the Vikings would severely limit their depth at tight end if they decided to cut Carlson, but so far the return on their original five-year, $25 million investment has been worse than the five-year average on the financial markets. A restructuring of his contract this year may have saved his job. He was scheduled to make a base salary of $2.9 million and count $4 million against this year's cap before reworking his deal. Now? He counts $2.55 million against the cap with a base salary of $1.5 million. Carlson essentially will have a do-over this offseason, as a sprained medial collateral ligament in training camp hampered his ability to get on the same page with Christian Ponder while Kyle Rudolph became the quarterback's go-to tight end. To date, Carlson hasn't lived up to the Vikings' trust in him – 8 catches for 43 yards and playing in only 24 percent of the offensive snaps – but cutting him would leave them with only Rudolph and Rhett Ellison as proven players at the position.

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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