Teams had to cut their rosters down to 53 players over the weekend, a tough day in NFL circles. Guys who have been giving it their all in practice every day got the sad news that they weren’t good enough and will have to be let go.
While that news is always tough for a young player to swallow, for many it’s just another fork in the road on their pathway to becoming a legit NFL player, as many are signed to the practice squad. Here are a handful of Minnesota Vikings who didn’t make the team this season but could have an impact either later this season or in 2021:
Willekes wasn’t cut but suffered a reported ACL injury that caused the team to put him on injured reserve. That injury was likely a blessing in disguise for the young pass rusher. The way things were shaking out in camp, Willekes was a long shot to make the squad. He flashed his potential in practices and even saw reps with the second team. There were some unforeseen factors that pushed him down the depth chart, though. The team moved Jalyn Holmes back to his college position of defensive end and then traded for Yannick Ngakoue.
Another factor that went against Willekes was the emergence of Eddie Yarbrough. The nondescript signing the Vikings made at the end of the 2019 season turned out to be a smart move. Yarbrough had been extremely impressive in camp to the point where he made the final roster. All these factors would’ve led to Willekes getting cut and ending up either with another team or on the Vikings’ practice squad.
Having Willekes on I.R. keeps his rights in Minnesota for at least another season. He can study the defense while he rehabilitates from his injury. With Ngakoue’s long term future with the team unclear and Holmes entering a contract season, he could find cracking the depth chart in 2021 an easier task than it was this season. It’s entirely possible he starts next season on the physically unable to perform list, but he could come off that early in the season. Willekes will be fully healthy and hungry to prove to the team he was worth keeping and should have a role as a situational pass rusher.
Hollins did everything in his power to make the Vikings this season. He had an excellent camp and used his speed to make plays in the passing game. It was quite shocking when he was among the players released on cut day. Instead of keeping the better pure receiver in Hollins, the Vikings elected to go with receivers who could help out on special teams in Dan Chisena and K.J. Osborn.
Hollins was signed to the practice squad where he will continue to develop. It’s likely we won’t have to wait until 2021 to see this guy on the field. If the Vikings receiving corps suffers an injury and a player is out for an extended period of time, Hollins will get the call. He went this route a season ago and ended up playing in four games and made a couple of catches.
If he does marinate on the practice squad for a full season, he will be a favorite to land a spot on the active roster in 2021. Players like Tajae Sharpe and Chad Beebe could be gone, and that will open up an opportunity for Hollins to land on the team. If he continues to get better every day, he’s a player who could not just end up on the roster but have a significant role on the offense next year.
Hinton was always a long shot to make the Vikings’ final roster. He came out of an unheard-of Division II college named called Washburn where he played for the Ichabods. He was an impressive looking prospect at guard who dominated his level of competition. In a normal preseason, his chances of earning a spot would’ve been better, but with this odd COVID-19-affected camp, teams have tended to gravitate more towards experienced players over those who show promise and upside.
The Vikings signed Hinton to the practice squad where he can develop for a season. His chances of making the team in 2021 are far greater than they were this season. Elflein will likely be gone and there should be an open competition at both guard spots assuming Dakota Dozier doesn’t become a Pro Bowler this season. Hinton should be well in the mix for one of those jobs. He showed great power, athleticism and technique in his days at Washburn and is as talented as any guard on the Vikings current roster. He just needs to get used to the speed of the NFL game and the Vikings blocking schemes, but his chances of wearing purple on Sundays in the future are very strong.
Metellus was a bit of a surprise cut by the Vikings, as all indications were that he was having a solid camp. Metellus’ biggest weakness was his pass coverage ability, but he had a reputation as an aggressive player around the line of scrimmage, and many envisioned a bit of a hybrid linebacker/safety role for him this season. He was also assumed to be an asset on special teams as his reckless playing style seemed a perfect fit for a role on kickoffs and punts.
Whatever the reason, the team has decided to move on from Metellus but were able to get him on the practice squad. It is worth wondering if a position change could be in store for this young player. He could be better suited as a linebacker in the NFL, and potentially that is where is future may be. That is pure speculation, but even as a safety this young player definitely needs more time to pick up the defense.
Next year the Vikings’ safety situation could be in flux. Anthony Harris could be gone, and Harrison Smith will be another year older and another year more costly. It’s not out of the question that the Vikings have two new starters at the position next year. If that is the case, Metellus would definitely be in the mix to compete for not just a spot on the roster but for the potential to start in 2021, making quite the impact.