Trouble on the bubble? Defensive players

The Vikings have parted ways with 2012 starters Jasper Brinkley and Antoine Winfield, but the defensive talent added in the offseason makes life on the bubble more uncomfortable for these four veteran defenders.

The Vikings' roster overhaul would seem to be getting to the last stages from the aging team of 2010 to the young team in 2013 that has five first-round draft picks selected in the last 13 months.

"Overhaul" should be replaced by "refinement" as ensuing offseasons commence, but it took another round of veteran cuts and contract restructurings this offseason to get where they currently stand.

On defense, that meant cutting Antoine Winfield instead of engaging in prolonged renegotiations and restructuring the contract of Kevin Williams, among other defensive decisions.

So where does that leave the current state of the Vikings defense? In a transition stage between the old guard and new blood with some players from last year's defense in danger of not making it through this year in Minnesota.

The Vikings will have to cut more than 35 players between now Week 1 in September. Most of those will be first- and second-year players, but here are some past roster-holders that might need a strong summer to survive into the fall:

DT Letroy Guion – Only one year ago, Guion signed a three-year, $9 million deal and was given the starting job at nose tackle. He played in 14 games, starting 10, but Fred Evans played in nearly 30 percent of the snaps compared to Guion's 43 percent and would cost $1 million against the cap if the team was looking to thin the ranks in the middle of the defensive line after the addition of Floyd and seventh-round pick Everett Dawkins (Christian Ballard provides another rotational pass-rushing option). The problem in that scenario is that it would leave the team short on nose tackles, but Guion appears to be more naturally a three-technique than the nose tackle the Vikings are trying to make him. In 2014, Guion is scheduled to count $4.3 million against the cap, a hefty price for someone playing less than 50 percent of the snaps and not producing at a star level. He needs his health and a strong offseason.

LB Marvin Mitchell – The Vikings just signed Mitchell to a one-year deal again this offseason, but they added Gerald Hodges and Michael Mauti through the draft and have 2012 draft holdover Audie Cole developing as well. Mitchell's main contribution last year was on special teams, but another backup linebacker, Tyrone McKenzie, provided 25 percent more snaps there. Mitchell and McKenzie's status might depend on how quickly Mauti is ready for action after recovering from a third surgery to a repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Last year, the Vikings ended the season with seven linebackers on their roster. Right now, it's safe to put Chad Greenway and Erin Henderson as starters in pen and put Gerald Hodges there in pencil. Larry Dean and McKenzie were leaders on special teams, and if they make the team again it means only two spots for Mitchell, Cole and Mauti.

CB Brandon Burton – A fifth-round pick in 2011, Burton played in 10 games with one start as a rookie. Last year, he played in only four games and was inactive for 12 as the Vikings bolstered their depth at cornerback with the acquisition of A.J. Jefferson, the return of Chris Cook and the drafting of Josh Robinson, not to mention a largely healthy season for Antoine Winfield. This year, first-round pick Xavier Rhodes essentially replaces Winfield, and Robinson and Jefferson likely will battle for the third and fourth spot in the cornerback rotation. There is also added competition with Jacob Lacey and Greg McCoy. Burton isn't on the bubble (in our estimation) because of salary, rather a lack of contribution in his first two seasons. He'll need a big offseason/preseason to stay relevant to the 53-man roster discussion.

CB Marcus Sherels – Last year, the Vikings kept 11 defensive backs. Harrison Smith and Jamarca Sanford are starters at safety with Mistral Raymond and Robert Blanton likely to continue in backup roles. Andrew Sendejo is the valued special teams coverage guy as a reserve safety, so many of the cuts will be coming at cornerback as the Vikings go from their current count of 17 defensive backs to last year's season-ending count of 11. Players like undrafted rookies Brandan Bishop and Darius Eubanks, as well as first-year players like Greg McCoy and Roderick Williams, will certainly enter with a lot to prove. Sherels may need to hang onto his punt return duties to secure his roster spot because it's an ever-deepening competition at defensive back.

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

Viking Update Top Stories