The changes on the Minnesota Vikings’ much-maligned offensive line have started already.
Harris was placed on the reserve/non-football illness list at the start of training camp and never came off of it. Neither Harris nor the team ever specified what the state of his health was, but Harris said after the season he was hopeful he would return to action in this offseason. That apparently won’t happen with the Vikings because it wasn’t a salary-cap move to release him. He was scheduled to make only $615,000 in 2017.
Harris had started 34 of 49 games played since entering the NFL in 2012, including 22 of 29 for the Vikings since acquiring him in 2014.
Fusco has been a starter since 2012, his second season in the league after the Vikings drafted him in the sixth round in 2011. He has started 64 of 67 games played, including all 14 in which he played last year.
However, he was due to make almost $4.8 million in 2017 and his effectiveness has seemed to wane after dealing with injuries in 2014 that ended his season in September, weeks after signing a five-year, $24.25 million extension. By releasing him, the Vikings will still have $1.6 million of his contract remaining on their 2017 cap.
The analytics site Pro Football Focus gave Fusco a poor grade of 52.8 for 2016, worst among the offensive linemen that entered the season as starters.
The Vikings are expected to undergo a sizeable overhaul of their offensive line this offseason. While center Joe Berger and left guard Alex Boone are expected to remain, the Vikings could be looking for new starters at the other three positions on the line.
Left tackle Matt Kalil is a free agent and his replacement after injury, T.J. Clemmings, played poorly. Clemmings could, however, move back to right tackle and compete for a starting spot there with Jeremiah Sirles. Nick Easton could also compete for the right guard spot, but the Vikings are expected to add at least a few new offensive linemen via the draft and/or free agency, and releasing Fusco and Harris paves the way to do that.