MINNEAPOLIS -- Since the start of the Minnesota Vikings' organizational overhaul in 2011, when Rick Spielman put a greater emphasis on building through the draft, the team's roster has typically ranked among the league's youngest. The youth movement surged again this year, when the team let 33-year-old defensive tackle Kevin Williams and 32-year-old defensive end Jared Allen leave in free agency as it aimed to rebuild on defense.
Saturday's final roster cuts continued that process, as the Vikings cut 34-year-old safety Chris Crocker, 30-year-old defensive tackle Fred Evans and put 29-year-old safety Jamarca Sanford on injured reserve. At the end of it, the team's 53-man roster was the fifth-youngest in the league.
Philly.com examined the rosters of all 32 teams after Saturday's cuts and put the Vikings at an average age of 25.58 years, which was the third-youngest average age in the NFC. The Green Bay Packers were just behind the Vikings at 26.62 years, and the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks were next, with an average age of 26.65 years.
In 2013, the Vikings were only the league's 13th-youngest team, as they played with five starters (Allen, Williams, Brian Robison, Greg Jennings and Chad Greenway) who were at least 30. This year's team will have four opening-day starters in their 30s (Jennings, Robison, Greenway and Matt Cassel), but the roster is stocked with 23 players from the Vikings' last three drafts, and three undrafted free agents the Vikings signed before the 2013 season -- Adam Thielen, Rodney Smith and Zach Line.
Only eight players on the Vikings' roster are in their 30s, with long snapper Cullen Loeffler being the oldest at 33. Just three more -- center John Sullivan, linebacker Jasper Brinkley and running back Adrian Peterson -- will turn 30 in the next year.
A roster this young means the Vikings' coaching staff will have to mold players on the fly, but coach Mike Zimmer seems to revel in the opportunity to teach technique, especially on defense. In large part, he'll start with a roster he can shape according to his way of thinking. If it works, the Vikings will be able to grow with Zimmer over the next several years.