The Minnesota Vikings’ linebacker corps will likely only have one spot up for grabs this preseason. The team only kept five linebackers a season ago, and with Eric Kendricks, Anthony Barr, Eric Wilson and rookie Troy Dye all locks to make the team, if they go that route again, only one more man will make the final 53. That battle should come down to veteran Ben Gedeon or second-year linebacker Cameron Smith. We’ll take a look at both of these players and try to figure out which one the Vikings should keep, and which one they should cut.
Why keep Ben Gedeon?
First of all, he’s a veteran and a proven commodity. While Gedeon doesn’t make game-changing plays, he has produced solid, respectable numbers over his career. He’s totaled 103 tackles and broken up two passes. He has been a steady presence on the Vikings’ defense and their special teams.
Gedeon also provides some veteran leadership. The Vikings are going to be very young at many positions this upcoming season like cornerback and defensive end, and they need as many veterans on this side of the ball as they can get. If something happened to Wilson, and the Vikings didn’t keep Gedeon, they’d be rolling the dice with either Dye, a rookie, or Smith.
Having an inexperienced weak side linebacker added to an inexperienced group of corners creates a lot of question marks on a unit that has been a strength of the Vikings for years. The Vikings will be better off keeping the guy who knows Zimmer’s defense and won’t be in the wrong place in certain coverages and situations.
Gedeon is also in a contract season. He’s a free agent at the end of the year, and he’ll want to put together a solid year’s worth of tape to attract the biggest contract he can, whether that is from the Vikings or another team. This extra motivation could lead Gedeon to have one of the more productive seasons of his career.
Why Cut Gedeon?
Gedeon should be cut because he doesn’t bring much to the table. The guy has started 22 games in his NFL career and totaled just 103 tackles. That’s not even five tackles a game. In 39 career games, Gedeon doesn’t have a sack, interception, forced fumble or even a tackle for a loss. How is that even possible?
This guy is about as vanilla a player as there could possibly be, and there’s no reason why a rookie or inexperienced player couldn’t do any better. As far as his special teams prowess goes, the Vikings have a bunch of late-round rookies and undrafted players who could all be great special teamers, making Gedeon easily replaceable.
Gedeon also has a history of concussions and missed the majority of the 2019 season because of them. That is a major concern with him moving forward, and it is fair to question whether or not he’ll even want to play if there’s a risk of jeopardizing his future health. The fact Gedeon is an under-producing, injury-prone player makes him a prime candidate to be cut.
Why Keep Cameron Smith?
Cameron Smith was a fifth-round pick for the Vikings in the 2019 NFL Draft. Despite that, he didn’t make the final 53-man roster but was signed to the practice squad. Injuries to various players got him called up from time to time, and he ended up appearing in five games and totaled eight tackles in spot duty. Those numbers aren’t very impressive, but it’s hard for a young player to get familiar with the defensive schemes when he’s only getting a handful of snaps a game before getting sent back to the practice squad.
Smith is basically the same exact size as Gedeon and comes with a cheaper price tag. With Gedeon’s lack of career production, there isn’t any reason to think Smith couldn’t at least post similar numbers. Smith also doesn’t have the issue with concussions that Gedeon does and would be a healthier option.
Why Cut Cameron Smith?
Smith couldn’t even crack the 53-man roster as a fifth-round pick a season ago. He was beaten out by Kentrell Brothers and Gedeon and was put on the practice squad. Despite not making the team, Smith was brought back a few times and appeared in five games. He logged 33 snaps on defense but could only accumulate eight total tackles.
It’s fair to wonder if Smith has what it takes to be a successful NFL linebacker, and the fact he couldn’t impress with the limited opportunities he was given is cause for concern. There’s no reason to believe that he’ll be any better in Year 2, especially with a shortened preseason and the loss of valuable reps in practice.
Keep or Cut: Gedeon or Smith?
The Vikings, knowing how important this season is, should put together the strongest roster possible. While Gedeon hasn’t been a flashy player in the league, he has at least been able to earn a starting job and has accumulated over 100 tackles in his career. He is a much more reliable option as a backup than Smith would be.
Obviously, the concussions are a concern with Gedeon, and he’ll first need to decide if he wants to play for another season. He gives the Vikings the best chance if Wilson gets hurt, and while he may not be a flashy option, the Vikings know what they’ll get from this steady presence on the field.