The Minnesota Vikings enter the 2010-2011 off-season with seventeen free agents. That's hardly the Vikings' most meaningful storyline, however, as the vast majority of those free-agents are highly expendable. Rather, the true storyline is that if the right 28 players were free agents, the Vikings would be in proper position letting all 28 walk, probably onto the street.
Among the Vikings' players not part of next year's free-agency class but meriting dismissal from the team's roster are Ryan Cook, Bryant McKinnie, Bernard Berrian, Tyrell Johnson, Madieu Williams, and John Sullivan. Combined with all but a handful of actual free-agents, the Vikings have approximately 28 players on roster with whom they should part in 2011 and an additional 2-3 players with whom they could part if they can sign that player's logical, free-agent replacement.
The following are the players that the Vikings should want to return next year and on whom they should be able to rely to produce: Adrian Peterson, Lorenzo Booker, Percy Harvin, Phil Loadholt, Visanthe Shiancoe, Jim Kleinsasser, Antoine Winfield, Kevin Williams, Fred Evans, LeTroy Guion, Chad Greenway, Heath Farwell, E.J. and Erin Henderson, Jamarca Sanford, Hussain Abdullah, Chris Kluwe, Cullen Loeffler, Ryan Longwell, Sidney Rice, Steve Hutchinson, Cedric Griffin, Chris Cook, Jared Allen, and Anthony Herrera. The remainder of the squad, with the possible exception of Ben Leber, is merely dried kindling.
Having front-loaded most of their players' contracts through the years, the Vikings have the benefit not only of ample cap space from year to year but also the luxury of bidding adieu to players under contract without worrying about accelerated bonus hits to whatever salary cap the new CBA will bring. That means no worries about jettisoning McKinnie, Madieu Williams, Berrian, Johnson, Sullivan, Cook or any other under-contract players. The sole concern is first identifying a viable replacement. For most of these players, that search will not take long.
The Vikings' offensive line was woeful in 2010, allowing 36 sacks and three times snapping the ball over the quarterback's head, the secondary "led" by Williams, largely was invisible, except when getting burned, and the Vikings' rookies contributed nothing to the effort. By far the most offensive performance of the season, however, was that turned in by Bernard Berrian.
Berrian's replacement is already on the Vikings' roster. That person is any wide-receiver not named Berrian. On a team that produced only four 100-yard receivers all year, even a lame effort by Berrian would have shone brightly. Unfortunately, Berrian was not up to even that minimal standard, finishing the season with 28 receptions for 252 yards. That's 88 more receiving yards than Randy Moss had in his brief stint with the Vikings, 85 more than Toby Gerhart, and 28 fewer than Sidney Rice, meshing nicely with Berrian's zero touchdowns and two fumbles in 28 times holding the ball. Truly putrid. Berrian's pouting about how he plays injured was the cherry on top of this turd sundae.
To these players, the Vikings ought bid adieu. The question will be with whom will they replace them?