NFL: Vikings shake up offensive line crew with trade for Sirles
MINNEAPOLIS -- Offensive coordinator Norv Turner admitted earlier in the week the Vikings are "extremely thin'' on the offensive line. On Saturday, they sought to address that problem.
MINNEAPOLIS - Offensive coordinator Norv Turner admitted earlier in the week the Vikings are “extremely thin’’ on the offensive line. On Saturday, they sought to address that problem.
The Vikings acquired Jeremiah Sirles, who plays both guard and tackle, from San Diego for a sixth-round pick. They also cut 22 players, including former University of Minnesota wide receiver Isaac Fruechte, and put cornerback Jabari Price on the suspended list to get down to the required 53-man opening roster by Saturday’s deadline.
Sirles played two games last season, including making one start, as an undrafted free agent from Nebraska. He had a fine preseason, which is why the Vikings had to give up what they did.
Making the team was undrafted rookie quarterback Taylor Heinicke. He will be third string behind Teddy Bridgewater and Shaun Hill when the regular season starts Sept. 14 at San Francisco.
“It’s been a dream of mine to be a quarterback in the NFL, and (Saturday) it came true,’’ said an elated Heinicke.
There were two surprise moves made Saturday on the offensive line. The Vikings waived David Yankey, a fifth-round pick in 2014 who didn’t appear in any games as a rookie, and let go of tackle Tyrus Thompson, a sixth-round pick last May.
Another draft choice from last spring not making the roster was defensive end B.J. Dubose. He was a sixth-round pick.
There also were some interesting moves at linebacker, a position where the Vikings had an overload of players. Waived were Michael Mauti, who spent the past two seasons with Minnesota, and Brandon Watts, a seventh-round pick in 2014.
But the biggest surprise might have come with the Vikings giving up on Yankey, who came back stronger after an offseason of weightlifting and was being used at both guard and tackle. Thompson had been tried at guard last spring before he was moved back to tackle for training camp.
Another tackle let go was 6-foot-9, 340-pound Babatunde Aiyegbusi, a native of Poland who signed with the Vikings last March after never having played college football. Aiyegbusi gained plenty of exposure, including appearing on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”
“I was expecting this to happen,’’ Aiyegbusi said. “There are a bunch of great athletes on the team, and I’m an inexperienced guy. But it was a great experience.’’
There actually is not an overload of great athletes on the offensive line, hampered last month when tackles Phil Loadholt and Carter Bykowski were lost with season-ending injuries. Perhaps that’s why Turner said the Vikings this season “need a little luck up front.’’
Perhaps some luck could come from Sirles. He logged 197 snaps in the preseason, more than any San Diego player, and had a fine plus-1.9 grade by Pro Football Focus.
The Vikings had some luck with a former Chargers offensive lineman before the start of last season. They picked Mike Harris up off waivers, and he’s now a starter.
Fruechte said the Vikings want to sign him for the 10-man practice squad, which will be set Sunday. He isn’t expected to be claimed off waivers by another team.
Several other players cut are being targeted for the practice squad. They include running back Dominique Williams, safety Anthony Harris, fullback Blake Renaud and linebacker Brian Peters. Running back DuJuan Harris also is in the mix.
Others waived Saturday were defensive tackles Chigbo Anunoby and Greg Hickman, guards Isame Faciane and Bob Vardaro, center Tom Farniok, wide receivers Donte Foster and Ryan Whalen, defensive end Leon Mackey and cornerbacks Shaun Prater and Josh Thomas.
Price must miss the first two games of the season because of a suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on substance abuse. After that, the Vikings would have to make a roster move if they want to restore Price to the active roster.
The only undrafted rookie to make the roster was Heinicke. In the preseason, Heinicke completed 57 of 82 passes for 69.5 percent for 516 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.
The Vikings hung onto plenty of targets for their quarterbacks. They kept six receivers, including rookie Stefon Diggs, and four tight ends. Tight end Chase Ford had been on the bubble, but he was deemed too important to let go.
The Vikings held onto a fullback in Zach Line. They kept only three running backs in Adrian Peterson, Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon.
How much damage skill players do on offense could depend on how the line holds up. The right side is inexperienced with rookie tackle T.J. Clemmings and Harris, in line to start against the 49ers, his first start at guard at any level.
The Vikings hope Sirles can help their depth on the offensive line. With many players being released Saturday throughout the NFL, they might not be done tinkering with it.
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