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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Zulgad: Vikings have benefited by subtracting these three from roster

By Judd Zulgad

One of the impressive things about these Minnesota Vikings is the lack of ego that seems to exist. How many times have you heard a player on this 11-3 team gripe about playing time or the number of times they’ve touched the ball?

Running back Latavius Murray signed a three-year, $15 million free-agent contract in March and then touched the ball only 16 times in the first four games, in part because he was behind standout rookie Dalvin Cook. Murray could have turned his non-usage into a story, but instead simply waited his turn.

Of course, it’s hard to be selfish on a team in which Teddy Bridgewater is doing everything in his power to support Case Keenum, and vice versa, even though Bridgewater was cleared to return from injury weeks ago.

Keenum has done nothing to lose his hold on the starting spot, but there are plenty of quarterbacks who would have politicked behind the scenes to get their old job back once they were ready.

The harmony that has been created is no accident. The Vikings didn’t necessarily have it in previous years and it appears they worked hard to make sure it existed this season. The subtraction of at least three players seems to have helped with this. Those three are:

Adrian Peterson

The Vikings gained a fresh lease on offensive life when they jettisoned the future Hall of Fame running back in March. It was more than just shedding the $18 million Peterson was due in 2017, although that was reason enough to make the move.

The Vikings had lost interest in making sure their offense revolved around Peterson and hearing about it when that didn’t happen. If Peterson didn’t get his expected number of carries in a game, he had no issue with expressing his dismay.

In his prime, Peterson never had to worry about not getting the ball, even if he looked awkward when trying to catch it or struggled in pass protection. Peterson was such a dominant runner that his flaws didn’t matter.

But after missing most of two of the past three seasons, Peterson had reached a stage where he was going to need to fit into what the Vikings wanted to do if he was going to be kept around. Peterson also would have had to take a pay cut. None of that was going to happen and so the two sides separated.

Let’s just say the Vikings have gotten the better of the divorce.

Peterson ended up signing a two-year, $7 million contract with New Orleans just before the NFL draft but it quickly became clear he wasn’t going to be a fit with a talented Saints team. Peterson melted down on coach Sean Payton on the sideline during the Saints’ opening night loss to the Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium.

After rushing for 81 yards on 27 carries in four games, the 32-year-old was traded to Arizona in October for a conditional sixth-round pick. The Saints had more talented running backs in Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara and no use for Peterson.

Peterson then rushed for 448 yards on 129 carries with two touchdowns and caught nine passes for 66 yards in six games with Arizona. He also fumbled three times, losing two of them, before being sidelined for the season because of a neck injury. It adds to the list of injuries for a guy who is breaking down.

Meanwhile, the Vikings began the season with Cook at running back and transitioned to Murray and Jerick McKinnon after Cook suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 4. All three are far more versatile than Peterson, possessing the ability to block and catch passes.

McKinnon, in fact, has 50 receptions this season, or seven more than Peterson’s career-high with the Vikings.

If you want a starting point for why offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur is running an offense that looks better than anything we’ve seen from the Vikings in many years, the ability to design a scheme that doesn’t include Peterson is a good starting point.

Alex Boone

The Vikings demonstrated just how serious they were about winning in 2017, when general manager Rick Spielman released the guard shortly before the regular season opened.

The Vikings reportedly wanted Boone to rework a contract that called for him to make $6.6 million ($3.4 million guaranteed), but he declined. Boone walked away with the $3.4 million – and signed with the Arizona Cardinals – but it’s now clear the Vikings got the best of the deal.

It took guts for Spielman to jettison Boone considering he had signed the veteran to a four-year, $26.8 million free-agent contract in March 2016. Boone, who started 14 games at left guard for the Vikings last season, never seemed to be a great fit in Minnesota’s locker room. He was usually a willing quote, so the media had no issue with him, but it’s safe to say he seemed to rub some Vikings people the wrong way with his brash style.

It didn’t help that Boone saw himself as the leader of an offensive line that was absolutely atrocious last season. With the Vikings’ left tackle situation a mess, Boone told reporters he went to Zimmer and volunteered to play the position. Zimmer seemed less than thrilled with Boone’s suggestion when asked about it during his press conference.

Boone’s exit allowed the Vikings to move Nick Easton to left guard and use third-round pick Pat Elflein at center. Elflein has been outstanding and the Vikings reconstructed offensive line has been much improved. Easton is a better fit for what the Vikings decided to do in going away from the power-run scheme.

As for the offensive linemen, they don’t seem to have a spokesman any longer and that’s just fine with them.

Matt Kalil

Before the Vikings played Carolina a few weeks back, everyone at Winter Park said all the right things about the fourth-overall pick in the 2012 draft.

Privately, they have to be wondering as much as we are about what happened to Kalil. A Pro Bowl selection as rookie, Kalil’s career spiraled quickly and his time with the Vikings ended when he signed a five-year, $55.5 million contract to play with his brother, Ryan, in Carolina.

The Vikings claimed they tried to keep him. If that’s the case, Spielman owes somebody with the Panthers a steak dinner. Kalil played in only two games last season because of injury; he will best be remembered for flipping the hat off a critical Vikings fan outside the gates at TCF Bank Stadium and for owning pizza joints in town.

As a player, he will be remembered as a flop.

The Vikings replaced Kalil by signing free agent Riley Reiff to a five-year, $58.75 million contract. Reiff missed Sunday’s game against Cincinnati but has been extremely reliable protecting Keenum’s blindside. Reiff also has yet to flip the hat off an upset fan or go through a game where blocking an opposing defensive end looks like a foreign concept.

In other words, he’s a big improvement on Kalil and for that the Vikings are grateful.

The post Zulgad: Vikings have benefited by subtracting these three from roster appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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