NFL Minnesota Vikings

Five Minnesota Vikings Who Must Be Kicked to the Curb Before Free Agency

1 of 6

Minnesota Vikings: Five Players Who Should Be Gone Before Free Agency Starts

Jonathan Daniel-Getty Images

The Minnesota Vikings had a dismal season in 2013, finishing 5-10-1 after a surprising 2012 campaign that saw them earn a playoff berth.

There are clear-cut weaknesses on the roster, so general manager Rick Spielman, in concert with new head coach Mike Zimmer, has some key decisions to make in free agency and the draft. Some of those decisions will focus on which in-house free agents to consider bringing back, and a lot of fans will be watching what the team does during May’s draft, most notably with the eighth overall pick.

The Vikings have already made a difficult decision regarding one of their own players this offseason, with the release of linebacker Erin Henderson after two DUI arrests in a short time frame this past season. Henderson started 12 games last season, with 112 total tackles, four sacks and two interceptions, so the Vikings are now a bit thinner at a spot where they already lacked top-notch depth.

Minnesota already has a lot of salary cap space available to make moves in free agency, but there are some players who underachieved under former head coach Leslie Frazier that may simply not have a place on the team with a new head coach in place. A salary cap hit will be involved in releasing anyone who is under contract for next season, but in a lot of cases it will be worth it if an upgrade in talent can be found elsewhere.

With NFL offseason activity sure to ramp up in the next few weeks as teams prepare for free agency and May’s draft, here are five Vikings who should be released before free agency starts.

2 of 6

5. S Mistral Raymond

Hannah Foslien- Getty Images

Harrison Smith looks like a perennial Pro Bowler at free safety, but the Vikings need to find an upgrade at strong safety via free agency or the draft. Apart from an overall lack of impact that should put him on the roster bubble, Raymond may simply fall victim to a numbers game with Jamarca Sanford and Andrew Sendejo under contract along with any potential additions.

3 of 6

4. CB Josh Robinson

Hannah Foslien-Getty Images

Robinson replaced Antoine Winfield as Minnesota’s primary slot corner last season, and he struggled in the role before his season ended early with a fractured sternum. He will have to compete for a job through the offseason and training camp, but Robinson's ceiling does not look high and the team may be best-served letting him go before next month.

4 of 6

3. TE John Carlson

Hannah Foslien- Getty Images

Carlson has decided to continue his career after suffering the third concussion of his NFL career last season, and his fifth reported concussion dating back to his college career at Notre Dame. Carlson is scheduled to make $3.9 million next season, which is too much for the Vikings to be paying a largely unproductive (40 catches over the last two seasons) No. 2 tight end if a restructuring of his contract can’t be done for the second straight offseason.

5 of 6

2. DT Letroy Guion

Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Guion started all 13 games he played in last season, but he was not particularly productive (21 total tackles and one sack) and is due to make nearly $4 million next season in the final year of his contract. The Vikings don’t have great defensive line depth the way things look right now, which may make it tough to part ways with Guion, but surely a player with better upside can be signed to a similar (or lower) salary.

6 of 6

1. QB Christian Ponder

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Ponder is the most obvious member of this list, despite Spielman’s assertion he’ll be back with the team next season. In a best-case scenario Ponder could be traded for a draft pick, but his value around the league is likely to be limited and the Vikings would be better off simply cutting their losses and releasing him if a trade partner can't be found.