Vikings release guard tandem
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings' offensive line purge has begun. Minnesota released guards Brandon Fusco and Mike Harris on Friday, clearing roster spots and cap space to rebuild an injury-ravaged and underperforming unit that precipitated t...
MINNEAPOLIS - The Minnesota Vikings' offensive line purge has begun.
Minnesota released guards Brandon Fusco and Mike Harris on Friday, clearing roster spots and cap space to rebuild an injury-ravaged and underperforming unit that precipitated the team's second-half collapse in 2016.
Harris did not play all season because of an undisclosed illness, while Fusco struggled at right guard two years after signing a $24 million contract extension.
Fusco was due to consume more than $15 million in salary cap space the next three seasons. Cutting him allows the Vikings to recoup $3.2 million in cap room but they still are on the hook for $1.6 million of dead money under the 2017 cap.
Fusco started the first 13 games before being hurt Dec. 11 against Jacksonville, his third concussion since last year. He suffered his first of this season on the first series of the Oct. 9 game against Houston, but, helped by the Vikings having a bye week, did not miss a game.
The Vikings made Fusco the highest-drafted player ever from Division II Slippery Rock in 2011 when they selected him in the sixth round. He quickly earned the trust of the coaching staff and wound up starting 60 of 67 games.
Fusco struggled in 2015 when he moved to left guard, but he had even more problems last season when he moved back to his natural right guard position. Pro Football Focus ranked him 63rd among all NFL guards.
Fusco tweeted a statement calling the news "very upsetting because this game means so much to me."
"I've had up and downs throughout my life and this is a small hurdle I will have to get over," he wrote. "I just want to thank the Vikings organization for the last six years. Thank you for taking a chance on a kid from the great small school of Slippery Rock University. It's been a fun ride.
"I got to play and meet some great people in Minnesota. I will forever be grateful for the opportunity and hope to continue my career in another great organization. Thank you everyone!"
Friday's moves leave Minnesota with only two starting offensive linemen, left guard Alex Boone and center Joe Berger, along with swing guard Nick Easton.
In January 2016, coach Mike Zimmer fired offensive line coach Jeff Davidson and hired former head coach Tony Sparano to strengthen pass protection and toughen up the unit as a whole.
The team signed Boone and veteran right tackle Andre Smith during the offseason, but injuries immediately wreaked havoc on pass protection for quarterback Sam Bradford. Meanwhile, the rushing game bottomed out after star running back Adrian Peterson suffered a knee injury in the second game of the season.
Left tackle Matt Kalil had surgery on his hip and was lost for the season after Week 2. Smith suffered a season-ending elbow injury in Week 4. Jake Long, signed to replace Kalil, tore his Achilles' tendon in Week 10 and was finished.
Boone missed two games. Berger and Fusco each missed a pair. Berger ended up starting 11 games at center, two at right guard and one at left guard. Easton started the final five games of the season at center.