In case you missed it yesterday, the Vikings are trying to trade center John Sullivan, which explains why he didn’t play on Sunday. If they aren’t able to find a trade partner, they will presumably cut him this week.
In my story for today’s paper, I provided some perspective on what made Sullivan expendable beyond Joe Berger presumably winning the center job. To sum it up, Sullivan makes too much money to be a backup at only one position and they like the potential of second-year center Nick Easton.
So let’s assume that Sullivan is not on the roster once the Vikings trim it to 53 players on Saturday afternoon. And keeping in mind that they are also parting ways with second-year tackle Austin Shepherd, as my colleague Andrew Krammer and others reported, who does make the team?
Here’s a quick projection of which linemen the Vikings keep and who slots in where. My guess is they will keep nine, though it could be eight.
LT: Matt Kalil. Starting left tackle as long as his current injury is minor.
LG: Alex Boone. Locked and loaded at a starter in his first season here.
C: Joe Berger. Earned the right to start again after a strong 2015 season.
RG: Brandon Fusco. Sullivan being jettisoned most likely means his roster spot is safe for now. Fusco needs a solid bounce-back season, though.
RT: Andre Smith. Competition at this spot never materialized after Phil Loadholt retired, so Smith is the guy despite some shaky moments this preseason. If they carry over into the season, T.J. Clemmings is an option.
Backup: Clemmings. The second-year tackle has been toggled back and forth between the left and right side, prepping him for a swing tackle role.
Backup: Easton. The Vikings have not said much about him after trading for him last fall and he wasn’t active on game day once last season. But quietly, they believe he is on his way to becoming an option at center.
Backup: Zac Kerin. Like Sullivan, Easton is strictly a center, and that lack of positional flexibility is not ideal for a backup. That bodes well for Kerin, who mostly lined up at guard this summer but can play center, too.
Backup: Willie Beavers. He seemingly has a ways to go, but it would be surprising to see the Vikings cut ties with a fourth-round pick so soon.
Just missing the cut: Carter Bykowski and Jeremiah Sirles. With Clemmings ticketed for the swing tackle role, there does not appear to be room for Bykowski, the Eden Prairie product. Sirles is an interesting player because he can play at least four positions, but I think they like Kerin better. All it takes is an unfortunate injury this week, though, to open up a spot.