5 Reactions to the Initial Vikings 53-Man Roster

NFL: Minnesota Vikings Training Camp
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings released their initial 53-man roster on Tuesday afternoon following a slew of moves.

Now, as Week 1 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers approaches, here are 5 reactions to this initial Vikings 53-man roster.

3 UDFAs Make the Team

5 Reactions
Sep 24, 2022; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Cincinnati Bearcats linebacker Ivan Pace Jr. (0) runs onto the field prior to the game against the Indiana Hoosiers at Nippert Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

It’s not that uncommon to see no undrafted free agents make the 53-man roster for an NFL team during their rookie year, but the Vikings are rolling into the 2023 season with three of them: OLB Andre Carter, LB Ivan Pace, and CB NaJee Thompson.

Pace and Thompson certainly played their way onto the roster with fantastic showings in training camp and preseason. While Carter did not have the greatest summer, his upside is certainly intriguing, and the Vikings have bought in on his potential.

Cornerback Gets Even Thinner

Aug 10, 2023; Seattle, Washington, USA; Minnesota Vikings cornerback Joejuan Williams (29) covers Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Jake Bobo (19) at Lumen Field. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

One of the big surprises of Tuesday afternoon was the Vikings’ decision to release veteran CB Joejuan Williams. The former second-round pick is the prototypical press cornerback with his size and length.

With the release, though, the Vikings CB room is now alarmingly thin. Byron Murphy is a strong starter, but behind him, only Mekhi Blackmon, Andrew Booth, and Akayleb Evans will be capable of playing on the defense. Evans is the only player in the group other than Murphy to play 10 NFL games. Minnesota needs to make another addition in this group.

The Surprise at Offensive Tackle

Aug 10, 2023; Seattle, Washington, USA; Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Vederian Lowe (79) blocks Seattle Seahawks linebacker Tyreke Smith (92) during the game at Lumen Field. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

On Sunday night, the Vikings showed their hand at offensive tackle by trading Vederian Lowe to the Patriots. It was a clear sign of confidence in Oli Udoh, who struggled mightily during the preseason.

For my money, Lowe won the backup tackle job this summer, so this was another very surprising move by the team. Hopefully, it doesn’t matter too much with Christian Darrisaw and Brian O’Neill being the starters.

A Huge Safety Group

NFL: Minnesota Vikings Training Camp
Aug 5, 2023; Eagan, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith (22) during training camp at Twin Cities Orthopedic Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

While the Vikings only kept four players who will be playing defense at cornerback, they countered that decision with a truly massive safety group. They kept all six of Harrison Smith, Cam Bynum, Josh Metellus, Lewis Cine, Jay Ward, and Theo Jackson on the roster.

Obviously, this group can help ease the load from their cornerback group if needed. Bynum played corner in college while both Metellus and Ward are able to step into that nickel/dime role. This does not seem like a vote of confidence in 2022 first-round pick Lewis Cine, though, especially with his latest injury.

4 Tight Ends

NFL: Preseason-Minnesota Vikings at Seattle Seahawks
Aug 10, 2023; Seattle, Washington, USA; Minnesota Vikings tight end Nick Muse (34) catches a pass for a touchdown over Seattle Seahawks cornerback Tre Brown (22) during the first half at Lumen Field. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier in training camp, Kevin O’Connell called Johnny Mundt the best TE3 in the league. This speaks to the truly incredible depth at the position between T.J. Hockenson, Josh Oliver, and himself. Even still, the Vikings found a way to keep Nick Muse around, who was another player who really stood out over the course of the summer.

This move makes sense considering the Vikings are likely moving towards more 12 personnel where they will have two tight ends on the field. Having a pair of backups gives Minnesota security in case an injury occurs during the year.

Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho and managing editor of PurplePTSD.com. When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh enjoys running, gaming, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. Check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken.

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