Armed with three starting interior linemen who could play center in 2017, the Minnesota Vikings had the luxury of positional flexibility.
But with the 2018 preseason opener on the horizon, they’re in a pinch.
Between Joe Berger’s retirement, Pat Elflein’s offseason surgeries and Nick Easton’s reported neck and back ailments, the Vikings have to turn elsewhere to find somebody to snap the football.
Welcome, Cornelius Edison.
The undrafted Portland State product has yet to take an offensive snap in a regular season game. His three-year career has taken him from the Chicago Bears to the Atlanta Falcons and now the Vikings, where he hopes to find the stability he’s craved.
“Every day’s a blessing,” he told Zone Coverage, “but I’m thankful to the Vikings for the opportunity here, so I’m trying to take advantage of it, see what I can do here.”
Edison grew up in Washington and attended Portland State — also nicknamed the Vikings.
He started at left guard for three seasons before transitioning to center, where he thrived as a senior, winning the FCS Rimington Trophy, awarded to the nation’s top center at each level. “That was a cool honor,” said Edison, “but I had bigger goals in mind with what I wanted to do with my career.”
Edison’s hopes of getting drafted in 2015 took a hit when he tore the ACL in his left knee while working out for the Seattle Seahawks. After rehabbing, he landed with the Bears late in the 2015 season, which set off over a two-year whirlwind of transactions — 28 to be exact.
Edison’s only game experience came with the Bears in 2016 when he played 23 special teams snaps over six games. Last season with Minnesota, Edison was activated in Week 8 and Week 17 but did not play.
Entering his fourth NFL season, Edison may have an opening. Until Elflein or Easton return, he’ll have a shot to prove himself in practice against one of the strongest defensive lines in the league, a unit he faced many times on the practice squad last year.
“Edison’s a fighter,” said head coach Mike Zimmer. “He’s powerful.”
The Vikings have two other centers listed on their 90-man roster. Josh Andrews was signed off the Philadelphia Eagles practice squad in February but has played just one offensive snap in his four-year career. J.P. Quinn, an undrafted free agent, was signed at the start of training camp and is still learning the offense.
There was speculation Monday that the Vikings had reached out to free agent Richie Incognito, a 35-year-old veteran with center experience who recently underwent psychiatric evaluation after throwing weights and tennis balls at gym patrons. Zimmer squashed the rumor at Tuesday’s press conference, saying: “No interest and totally false.”
Not only are the Vikings missing Easton and Elflein, but right guard Mike Remmers has missed the last week with an apparent ankle injury. Minnesota may enter Saturday’s preseason game against the Denver Broncos with three non-starters occupying the interior spots — and an $84 million quarterback in Kirk Cousins to protect.
“I’m always concerned about everything,” said Zimmer, when asked if he was worried. “It is what it is.”