5 Potential Unexpected Vikings Cut Candidates

Vikings Defense Could Soon Receive Help
Aug 20, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Patrick Jones II (91) and cornerback Akayleb Evans (21) tackle San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Jauan Jennings. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings will soon return from their offseason with the start of training camp. Rookies are expected to arrive at TCO Performance Center on July 23rd, with the veterans following two days later. After training camp and the preseason, teams must trim their roster to only 53 players, leading to some tough decisions for second-year general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah.

5 Potential Unexpected Vikings Cut Candidates

In 2022, the Vikings unexpectedly released Ihmir Smith-Marsette, who was viewed to be the fourth wide receiver, the primary backup for Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, and K.J. Osborn. Defensive tackle Armon Watts was envisioned as a starter in Ed Donatell’s defense but was also shockingly released. Who could be this year’s Watts and Smith-Marsette?

Camryn Bynum

5 Potential Unexpected Vikings Cut Candidates
Dec 4, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings safety Camryn Bynum (24) reacts after the game against the New York Jets as center Garrett Bradbury (56) looks on at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

It would be a rare downfall for a young player (he will turn 25 on July 19th) who was a starter a year ago, but it is still a possible outcome. Camryn Bynum was drafted in 2021 by the previous regime – Rick Spielman and Mike Zimmer – and obtained by Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O’Connell. However, the defensive coordinators changed, so it is a mystery how he fits into the plans of Brian Flores.

Bynum had a couple of solid outings in 2021 but struggled in his extended opportunities in 2022. A potential emergence of first-rounder Lewis Cine and the rise of Josh Metellus – who has been universally praised all offseason – could lead to Bynum as the odd man out if the Vikes find someone they like better as the fourth safety. Scheme fit and competition are the threats for the third-year player.

Oli Udoh

The offensive tackle is another interesting case. He came into the league as a tackle and was the top backup for the Vikings. Udoh moved over a spot because of an opening at right guard but mightily struggled in 2021 as the starter. The new decision-makers immediately put him back into the reserve role.

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Jul 29, 2022; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings offensive tackles Olisaemeka Udoh (74) and Brian O’Neill (75). Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

When starting right tackle Brian O’Neill was out after Week 17, it was Udoh who took his spot and, back in his natural position, he played pretty well. However, the Vikings have tried Blake Brandel at guard, and he was last year’s backup at tackle. In addition to him, the Vikings also have 2022 draft pick Vederian Lowe on the roster, and they liked him enough to keep him around as the team’s fifth offensive tackle in 2022, an unorthodox move.

Udoh’s recent appearances in the news because of multiple speeding tickets aren’t helpful if he is indeed on the roster bubble in the eyes of Adofo-Mensah and O’Connell.

Nick Mullens

The Vikings drafted Jaren Hall in the fifth round of the 2023 draft to develop behind Cousins and potentially turn into something down the road. If that happens early in his career and he outplays Mullens, the only reason to keep the veteran as Cousins’ backup would be as the emergency quarterback, according to the new rule that allows teams to dress an additional quarterback.

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Nov 6, 2022; Landover, Maryland, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) and Vikings quarterback Nick Mullens (12) run onto the field for warmup prior to their game against the Washington Commanders at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports.

The ceiling of Mullens has become clear throughout the years. He is a backup who can step in for a game or two, but the team is in trouble if he’s starting for an extended period. Coaches and starting QBs like to have veteran backups, but if Hall clears a certain threshold, the organization will turn to him to be QB2, making Mullens expendable.

D.J. Wonnum/Patrick Jones

Both are backup edge rushers, and neither has shown any starting caliber upside. Wonnum started in 2020 and part of 2021, and it wasn’t good, especially because the run defense was unacceptable. Jones was part of the awful 2021 third-round class selected by Rick Spielman. The fact that he didn’t receive more snaps than Wonnum is concerning.

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Sep 11, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker D.J. Wonnum (98) and linebacker Danielle Hunter (99) react during the fourth quarter against the Green Bay Packers at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

Undrafted rookie Andre Carter out of the Army or last year’s rookie Luiji Vilain are two candidates to steal a roster spot from one of the two. A trade or a free agent signing is also possible, similar to the acquisition of Ross Blacklock last year, allowing the release of Watts. The two outside linebackers must show some growth to ensure their jobs, especially because they weren’t drafted by the current regime, and Flores has no history with them.

Kene Nwangwu

Nov 20, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Kene Nwangwu (26) in action against the Dallas Cowboys during the game at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

The kick return specialist came into the league after years of backup duties at Iowa State behind NFL talents David Montgomery and Breece Hall. He hasn’t shown anything on offense and has almost exclusively been used on special teams.

Kick returns have been devalued because of the rule change. If someone like Ty Chandler can show enough talent as a kick returner in addition to having more skills as an offensive weapon, it would make Nwangwu expendable.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt