The Vikings began their final roster cuts Friday afternoon, informing at least seven players that they intend to release them before Saturday afternoon’s deadline.
Word of roster cuts began leaking out after safety Shaun Prater, who played 18 games with the Vikings the past two seasons, tweeted that he was being released.
Soon thereafter, second-year wide receiver Donte Foster, who spent last season on the practice squad, also tweeted that he was being let go.
Five other players were informed of their release, according to various league sources. The Vikings did not make any transactions official with the league, though.
One of the cuts was defensive end Leon Mackey, who drove a hearse and picked up bodies for a Delaware funeral home before getting an opportunity with the Arizona Rattlers of the Arena Football League and then catching the Vikings’ eye.
Another was defensive tackle Chigbo Anunoby, who earned a pair of degrees in college and has said he hopes to become a doctor when his NFL career is over.
And then there was running back and kick returner DuJuan Harris, who was selling cars when the Green Bay Packers called him in 2012, reviving his career.
Among those informed of their release were rookie guard Bobby Vardaro and reportedly veteran cornerback Josh Thomas, who signed with the Vikings in July.
The Vikings must trim their roster to 53 players by 3 p.m. Saturday, which means that there are 15 more unreported roster moves that must be revealed.
The Vikings could be waiting because they hope to sneak some youngsters onto their 10-man practice squad. They are also monitoring the cuts around the league before making final decisions and could potentially be discussing trades with other teams.
The team appears to face its toughest decisions at linebacker and on the offensive line.
The Vikings have nine linebackers on their active roster, including seven who are recent draft picks. They are expected to carry six or seven linebackers, so Edmond Robinson, Michael Mauti, Brandon Watts and former Canadian Football League player Brian Peters are on the bubble. Audie Cole could be there, too.
Young offensive linemen David Yankey, Tyrus Thompson, Austin Shepherd and Zac Kerin might be battling for three total roster spots, assuming the Vikings carry nine linemen. Polish offensive tackle Babatunde Aiyegbusi is not expected to make the 53-man roster.
The Vikings have four tight ends they like in starter Kyle Rudolph, rookie MyCole Pruitt, and young veterans Rhett Ellison and Chase Ford. They must decide whether to cut Ellison or Ford, who did not play in the preseason finale, or to keep both around.
They must also decide whether to carry a third quarterback. Rookie free agent Taylor Heinicke got the start Thursday and completed 27 of 41 attempts for 279 yards and two touchdowns in a 24-17 loss to Tennessee. As of Friday afternoon, Heinicke had not been informed of his status, per a league source.
The Vikings will make their final cuts Saturday, but that doesn’t preclude the team from making more changes to the 53-roster before the season opener on Sept. 14.