O-line, linebacker most intriguing among cuts

The Vikings traded for an offensive lineman and released several of their recent late-round picks there, and the linebacker moves also created intrigue.

In the end, the Minnesota Vikings decided to go with three quarterbacks, keeping undrafted rookie Taylor Heinicke on the 53-man roster.

That news came in the wake of Christian Ponder being released from the Oakland Raiders, Matt Cassel being released from the Buffalo Bills and McLeod Bethel-Thompson also getting his walking papers from the Miami Dolphins. With Josh Freeman already released earlier this offseason by the Dolphins, that means all of the Vikings’ 2013 quarterbacks are looking for work.

While Heinicke won’t be expected to take many snaps with Teddy Bridgewater and Shaun Hill in front of him, the men protecting those quarterbacks will be have a different look.

The Vikings traded for guard/tackle Jeremiah Sirles on Saturday and released sixth-round pick Tyrus Thompson, free-agent signing Babatune Aiyegbusi, 2014 draft pick David Yankey and 2015 rookie free agents Bob Vardaro and Tom Farniok, along with converted defensive lineman Isame Faciane.

That leaves starters Matt Kalil, Brandon Fusco, John Sullivan, Mike Harris and T.J. Clemmings intact, with veteran Joe Berger and a cast of relatively inexperienced backups, including Sirles, Austin Shepherd and Zac Kerin on the offensive line.


Fullback Zach Line made the 53-man roster, and his flexibility as a fullback or tailback allowed the Vikings to release tailbacks DuJuan Harris and Dominique Williams and fullback Blake Renaud.

The receiver corps is as expected: Charles Johnson, Mike Wallace, Jarius Wright, Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs and Cordarrelle Patterson, after Isaac Fruechte, Ryan Whalen and Donte Foster were released.

The defensive line was pretty much as expected, too, with starters Brian Robison, Linval Joseph, Sharrif Floyd and Everson Griffen, along with backups Scott Crichton, Tom Johnson, Shamar Stephen, Danielle Hunter and Justin Trattou. The Vikings released rookie B.J. Dubose, Leon Mackey, Chigbo Anunoby and Greg Hickman.

The linebacker piece was much more of a puzzle. Chad Greenway, Gerald Hodges, Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr were all safe. Their backups were another story, and the Vikings elected to keep veteran Audie Cole and rookie Edmond Robinson while releasing Michael Mauti, Brandon Watts and Brian Peters.

At cornerback, the Vikings kept Terence Newman, Xavier Rhodes, Captain Munnerlyn, first-round pick Trae Waynes, and Marcus Sherels, electing to release Josh Thomas.

While it remains to be seen if Robert Blanton holds onto his starting job next to Harrison Smith, he and Andrew Sendejo and Antone Exum were kept, with Anthony Harris and Shaun Prater released.

The Vikings can begin assembling their eight-man practice squad at noon Central on Sunday, but other moves are likely as the Vikings scour the waiver wire, meaning the 53-man roster for now could see more changes in the next 24 hours.

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