The Vikings set their 53-man roster with a flurry of moves on Saturday afternoon. Included on their list of cuts was the guard they signed on the first day of free agency in 2016.
The team released left guard Alex Boone, ending his time in Minnesota less than 18 months into the four-year, $26.8 million contract he signed in March 2016. Boone, who was added in the Vikings’ attempt to remake their offensive line a year ago, was ushered out as part of this year’s offensive line overhaul.
He missed the Vikings’ second preseason game in Seattle, where Nick Easton started at left guard in his place, and had a brace on his left knee during practice the following week. The 6-foot-8 guard also appeared to be a less-than-ideal fit for the Vikings’ zone-blocking scheme, and as the Vikings worked out Easton and rookie Pat Elflein at center, they also gave both players plenty of time at guard.
According to multiple sources, the Vikings discussed a pay cut with Boone this week, after deciding he would not be in the starting lineup, but the 30-year-old refused. The decision to release Boone will leave $3.4 million in dead money on the Vikings’ books but will also free up $3.3 million in cap space.
With Boone gone, the Vikings figure to start Elflein — their third-round pick out of Ohio State — at center, and play Easton at left guard. Joe Berger will be their right guard, with free agent additions Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers at tackle.
Vikings cut Jones
As the Vikings trimmed their roster on Saturday, another veteran they signed in free agency was among those who didn’t make their 53-man roster.
The team put defensive tackle Datone Jones, reportedly dealing with a shoulder injury, on injured reserve. The former Packers first-round pick, who signed a one-year, $3.75 million deal with the team in March, had been a defensive end and linebacker in Green Bay, but the Vikings had hoped to turn him into a defensive tackle as part of their attempt to fill the hole left by the injured Sharrif Floyd on their roster.
Vikings part with Leidner, Heinicke
The Vikings released Mitch Leidner on Saturday, parting ways with the former Gophers QB after he went 14-for-19 for 129 yards in Thursday’s preseason finale.
“I’m very grateful to the Vikings organization for the opportunity,” Leidner said Saturday morning. “Had a lot of fun, met a lot of great people. So it was a great experience.”
It’s possible the Vikings could bring Leidner back to the practice squad to give them a third QB, after the team waived Taylor Heinicke with an injury designation. Heinicke had been dealing with an oblique strain, according to an NFL source, and sustained a mild concussion on Thursday night.
Bridgewater to PUP, Floyd to NFI list
Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who had been on the physically-unable-to-perform list through training camp, will be there through at least the first six games of the regular season.
The Vikings placed Bridgewater on the PUP list on Saturday, as he continues to rehab from the major knee injury that kept him out all of last season. Bridgewater has still not been cleared to practice, and coach Mike Zimmer said last week the 24-year-old wouldn’t be ready to do so until he could perform “the movements that are required by his position.”
The league’s collective bargaining agreement states a player’s “contract will not be tolled for the period that he is on Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform, except in the last year of his contract, when the contract will be tolled if he is still physically unable to perform his services as of the sixth regular season game.”
The final year of Bridgewater’s contract calls for him to make $1.354 million, and the Vikings could theoretically keep him at that figure for 2018 if his contract tolls after the sixth game of the season — though there’s some question about whether the rule actually requires players to spend the entire year on the PUP list to toll their contract.
While Bridgewater continues to work his way back from his knee injury, Floyd will also continue his quest to get back on the field. The 2013 first-round pick, who is dealing with a nerve issue in his right knee that has prevented his quadriceps muscle from working properly, will start the year on the non-football injury list. Floyd appeared to be more mobile in the last week of the Vikings’ preseason practices than he had been since his knee surgery last September, but it remains to be seen whether he’ll be able to return to the field.
The Vikings also put wide receiver Michael Floyd on the reserve/suspended list; he will miss the team’s first four games while serving out NFL discipline following his DWI arrest last December.
Three UDFAs on Vikings’ final roster
While additional moves on Sunday could change the makeup of the roster, the Vikings’ initial group of 53 includes 11 rookies, three of them undrafted.
Offensive tackle Aviante Collins, defensive end Tashawn Bower and linebacker Eric Wilson all made the team after signing with the Vikings as rookie free agents following the draft.
The Vikings kept eight of their 11 draft picks, releasing defensive back Jack Tocho, defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo and linebacker Elijah Lee. It’s anticipated the team will try to put all three players on its practice squad.
Andrew Krammer contributed to this report.