Last year’s cutting of Brian Robison shocked many. The veteran end had been a staple of Vikings lines for a decade. Yet, in an effort to move Stephen Weatherly up the ladder and save some money, Robison became the casualty. Similarly, the Vikings this year have a few guys who could be in the same boat. With a lot of youth entering the fray, there are a handful of veterans who could be up for a surprising cut the first week of September.
Keeping four tight ends is not unquestionable. The Vikings did it themselves as recently as 2016. However, Minnesota has three tight ends who figure to contribute more in the passing game, and two young players who have some good blocking potential. While Morgan has been solid as the blocking tight end who occasionally makes a big catch, his downfield abilities are minimal and his blocking contributions are replaceable. The Vikings could choose to go forward with the veteran Kyle Rudolph and the young guys Tyler Conklin and Irv Smith, leaving room elsewhere on the roster.
Minnesota has clearly started looking towards the new wave of offensive line. They found a tackle with upside last year in Brian O’Neill. They drafted two interior guys this year with Garrett Bradbury and Dru Samia. And then there is Pat Elflein in year three, who the Vikings are presumably still high on and should benefit from a move over to guard. Youth and bargains are taking center stage with this group, and that could signal the end for Reiff’s time in Minnesota.
While Reiff has been one of the more solid Vikings linemen the past two years, he has also had several stretches of mediocrity. His overall play suggests he is not the Vikings’ left tackle of the future. Plus, he is a cap hit over the next three years of: $11.7 million, $13.2 million and $13.95 million, respectively. That is a lot of money for a run-of-the-mill tackle. By cutting him after June 1, his dead money in 2019 would reduce from $6.6 million to $2.2 million. Or Reiff could potentially be a trade target for a team in need of a veteran lineman. In either case, O’Neill’s potential shift to left tackle would obviously be accelerated.
That said, Reiff’s veteran presence carries a fair amount of wait on the offensive line. As the Vikings are still in theory a “win now” team, it may behoove them to stick with the status quo, at least one more year.
Bower hardly qualifies as a “veteran” in the sense of playing on Sundays. But he has made the roster out of camp each of the last two seasons after going undrafted. Yet despite being essentially the fourth or fifth end for his entire Vikings career, Bower has only been active for seven games. His rare length and solid quickness have yet to translate him into a consistent pass rusher. Meanwhile, another end, Ifeadi Odenigbo, has consistently flashed during preseason. But still, largely due to the physical advantages Bower has over Odenigbo, Bower has made the roster.
This year could be ripe for a swap. The Vikings need production from their defensive line depth, and Bower has not proven he can be a contributor. Odenigbo, Ade Aruna and Hercules Mata’afa should all get a chance to push Bower for the last end spot and perhaps get activated on game days more often.
Treadwell’s roster spot is razor thin for the first time in his career. A 2016 first round pick, he has fallen well short of expectations, despite improving statistically in each of the last two seasons. As a prospect, Treadwell was held in high regard for his hands and his ability to use his size to his advantage. Alas, in the NFL, he has been notorious for untimely drops and poor ball skills. And with his inconsistent separation, he simply has not been the factor in the Vikings’ offense that they needed him to be.
It was painfully noticeable last season when his role was at its greatest. Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen put up big numbers early on, but then teams started focusing all their attention on bracketing them. That should have opened up opportunities for Treadwell to shine. Yet, he dropped passes at the worst time and the offense stagnated as defenses turned all their attention towards the Vikings’ two stars.
So we know Treadwell is probably not going to be the answer as third receiver. The Vikings have already declined his fifth-year option, meaning that this will best-case scenario be his last season in purple. But they could make that move a year early, simply to open up roster space. Minnesota invested some draft picks in young, quicker receivers who they may look to give more opportunities. It would not save any money, but cutting Treadwell could give Kevin Stefanski an opportunity to spread the wealth with regard to the receiver position.
–Sam Smith is the Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage Vikings and Deputy Editor for Full Press NFL. Like and Follow @samc_smith.
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