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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Zulgad: Alex Boone proves to be an expensive mistake, but Vikings made right move in releasing him

By Judd Zulgad

Brandon Fusco started all 16 games at left guard for the Minnesota Vikings in 2015 as they won the NFC North, but general manager Rick Spielman felt he could upgrade at the spot.

The decision was made to move Fusco back to right guard and look to the free agent market to improve at a spot where the Vikings had gotten mostly consistent Pro Bowl performances during Steve Hutchinson’s tenure.

The Vikings had signed Hutchinson to a seven-year, $49 million free-agent deal in 2006 – that was the contract that included the much-publicized Poison Pill that infuriated the Seattle Seahawks. Alex Boone, who had been with the 49ers, was signed as a free agent in March 2016.

He agreed to a four-year, $26.8 million contract with the Vikings that included $10 million in guarantees. This wasn’t Hutchinson money but it was lucrative nonetheless and the feeling was the Vikings were better off.

Boone started 14 games last season, missing two because of injury, and although his play was disappointing early on he seemed to make strides throughout the year. It didn’t help he spent much of his time beside over-matched left tackle T.J. Clemmings.

The Vikings signed free-agent Riley Reiff this offseason to play by Boone and the expectation was the left side of the line would be shored up. But Reiff missed significant time in training camp because of a back injury suffered on the first day.

As for Boone, it appeared as if he was having trouble adjusting to the Vikings’ zone running scheme and soon there were whispers that his roster spot could be in jeopardy.

Jettisoning Boone seemed unlikely given he was due $6.6 million this season, including $3.4 million in guarantees, but it was odd when he was replaced by Nick Easton in the second quarter of the Vikings’ third preseason game as many of the starters remained. Boone also had missed the Vikings’ second exhibition in Seattle because of an apparent knee injury.

On Saturday, the Vikings decided despite the money Boone was owed, and the fact he carried a $6.7 million salary-cap hit for this season, his subtraction from the 53-man roster would be best for all sides.

Boone was cut after one season and, according to the Star Tribune, after he declined the team’s request to take a pay cut. Even if he had accepted the salary reduction, there’s no guarantee he would have kept a starting job that’s now expected to go to Easton with rookie third-round pick Pat Elflein starting at center.

While the decision will be an expensive one for the Vikings, Boone’s release reportedly will cost Minnesota $3.4 million in dead money, it’s the right move.

Boone, 30, could be described as a character given some of the comments he made to the media last season but that doesn’t mean the team liked it. Boone’s remarks included telling Vikings fans to shut the bleep up “a little bit” after a 17-14 victory over Green Bay last season in the home opener at noisy U.S. Bank Stadium.

Boone did himself no favors with Zimmer when he publicly lobbied to play left tackle in November as the line’s woes mounted. In training camp, asked about Packers president Mark Murphy’s comments regarding wanting to reach the Super Bowl in Minneapolis, Boone said that would happen over his dead bleeping body.

Being outspoken when you are a key starter is OK, but taking that approach when your play is being questioned isn’t always such a good idea. NFL teams will tell you that they are able to tune out distractions but for the most part this isn’t true. Boone seemed like a guy who easily could have turned into a distraction if he wasn’t starting and was turned into a high-priced backup.

Zimmer wouldn’t have wanted that and Spielman had to know it would be counterproductive for a team that has high aspirations and needs its offensive line to be far better than it was last year or during the exhibition season.

Spielman likely had some explaining to do when he informed owners Zygi and Mark Wilf that he wanted to release the Vikings’ high-priced acquisition of a year ago. But it was a better idea to admit now that signing Boone was a mistake than it would have been to have an expensive and miserable veteran sitting on the bench for the entire season and hoping each day that he didn’t erupt.

The post Zulgad: Alex Boone proves to be an expensive mistake, but Vikings made right move in releasing him appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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