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Vikings' Roster Moves Include Signing RB Ito Smith, Placing DE Janarius Robinson on IR

The Vikings also finalized the signing of Everson Griffen and waived several players.

The Vikings made a wave of roster moves on Monday afternoon. Before I break them down, here's the full list:

  • Officially announced the signing of Everson Griffen (no contract details yet)
  • Signed former Falcons running back Ito Smith
  • Placed rookie DE Janarius Robinson on injured reserve
  • Waived QB Danny Etling, LB Christian Elliss, and DT Jordon Scott (injured)
  • Placed LB Cameron Smith on the Reserve/Retired list

Got all that?

Outside of Griffen — who we've already discussed and will continue to discuss — the main item of note here is probably the signing of Smith. 

A 2018 fourth-round pick out of Southern Miss, Smith has gotten some decent regular season playing time over the past three seasons for the Falcons. He's a 5'9", 195-pound back who turns 26 years old in a couple weeks. Smith's most productive season came when he had 117 touches, 467 yards from scrimmage, and four touchdowns as a rookie. He has totals of 113 touches, 536 yards, and two touchdowns in 21 games over the past two years.

For his career, Smith has averaged 3.9 yards per carry and 5.7 yards per reception. He ran a 4.45-second 40 at his pro day in 2018, with good jumps but poor agility scores.

There are two things that stand out as potential motivations for this move. One is that rookie RB Kene Nwangwu hyperextended his left knee in the Vikings' preseason opener. This might suggest Nwangwu will miss more time than initially expected. Also, Mike Zimmer mentioned in his Monday press conference that running backs missed a couple assignments in pass protection against the Colts this weekend. Smith's experience could make him an asset in that area.

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Update: Sounds like Alexander Mattison got banged up early in Saturday's game. He wasn't at practice on Monday. That adds even more context to the Smith signing.

It's not ideal to see Robinson — like Nwangwu, a fourth-round pick this year — going on IR, but it maybe adds a little more context to the signing of Griffen. Robinson is a raw, athletic, developmental prospect who was struggling to get going in training camp and the preseason. Since he won't be on the initial 53-man roster, he won't be eligible to be activated from IR this season. This will essentially be a redshirt year for the Florida State product.

Etling being waived means Nate Stanley has held onto the No. 4 QB job for the time being, which could come with a practice squad spot. It's entirely possible the Vikings could look to bring in a veteran QB after watching Jake Browning and Kellen Mond struggle mightily in the first two preseason games. Stanley has also been hurt for a couple weeks now.

Elliss and Scott were part of the Vikings' UDFA class this year. Scott intercepted a tipped pass during Saturday's game but is now apparently injured. Only four of the 11 UDFAs the Vikings signed are still on the 80-man roster: AJ Rose Jr., Whop Philyor, Zeandae Johnson, and Tuf Borland. The rest have been waived or placed on IR.

Smith retired last week; this official move takes him off the roster.

The Vikings' roster is now at 80. It'll be cut down to an initial group of 53 by next Tuesday afternoon, and the Vikings can then fill out their practice squad after the waivers process.

Two recent cuts around the league to keep an eye on from a Vikings perspective: safety Will Parks (cut by the Chiefs) and linebacker Kamal Martin (cut by the Packers). The Vikings have been interested in Parks for a few years and could use a veteran backup safety. Martin was a 2020 fifth-rounder out of Minnesota.

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