The Minnesota Vikings left no spot unturned on their makeover of an offensive line that struggled badly last year.
Left guard Alex Boone was unexpectedly among the 34 players cut Saturday by the Vikings to comply with the 53-man roster limit, ensuring they’ll have an entirely different look for the starting front five.
Boone signed a four-year contract in 2016 worth as much as $26.8 million as a free agent from San Francisco, but he rejected a pay cut and will now count $3.4 million against Minnesota’s salary cap even if he joins another team this season. Nick Easton is now the left guard, with rookie Pat Elflein at center and 13-year veteran Joe Berger at right guard. Berger, who was the center the last two seasons, is the only returning starter. Free agents Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers are the tackles.
Boone was one of seven offensive linemen released, including three former draft picks: guard Willie Beavers (fourth round, 2016), guard T.J. Clemmings (fourth round, 2015) and tackle Austin Shepherd (seventh round, 2015). Clemmings started 30 games over the last two years because of injuries, but his raw performance at both tackle spots was one of the biggest problems.
Tackle Aviante Collins from Texas Christian, one of three undrafted rookies who made the cut, joined Rashod Hill, Danny Isadora and Jeremiah Sirles as backups.
Finally, after four exhibition games, the Vikings picked experience over range for their specialists with Kai Forbath over Marshall Koehn at kicker and Ryan Quigley over Taylor Symmank at punter.
Quarterbacks Taylor Heinicke and Mitch Leidner were also released. With Teddy Bridgewater on the physically unable to perform list working his way back from the massive injury to his left knee, Sam Bradford and Case Keenum are the only two quarterbacks on the team for now.
The Vikings kept eight of their 11 draft picks, releasing linebacker Elijah Lee, defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo and safety Jack Tocho with the goal of putting the trio of seventh-rounders on the practice squad when the 10-player group can be established Sunday.
With wide receiver Michael Floyd suspended for the first four games, draft picks Rodney Adams and Stacy Coley each got a roster spot . So did fullback C.J. Ham, a Duluth, Minnesota, native who spent most of last season on the practice squad and made the switch from tailback.
Moritz Bohringer, the wide receiver from Germany who last year became the first draft pick in NFL history to come directly from a country outside the United States , was released along with wide receiver Isaac Fruechte, another Vikings practice squad veteran and a native of Minnesota who played collegiately for the Gophers. With rookie Ben Gedeon in line to start at weakside linebacker in place of the retired Chad Greenway, Edmond Robinson was released after two years with the team.
The Vikings kept 11 defensive backs, including cornerback Tramaine Brock, a one-time Gophers player who was acquired from Seattle in a trade. They kept nine defensive linemen, excluding tackle Datone Jones. The former Green Bay end making the transition inside was placed on injured reserve.