MINNEAPOLIS — The Vikings started the widely expected makeover of their offensive line Friday, releasing guards Brandon Fusco and Mike Harris.
Fusco, who signed a five-year contract extension with the team the day before the 2014 season, tore a pectoral muscle during the Vikings’ third game that year and never seemed to be the same in his two years with the team after the injury. He struggled during an ill-fated move to left guard in 2015, and continued to have issues on the right side in 2016, when he also missed two games because of concussions.
Releasing Fusco will allow the Vikings to free up $3.2 million in cap space, though they will have to count the remaining $1.6 million in prorated signing bonuses from Fusco’s extension against the cap.
“I received word today that I am going to be released. This was very upsetting because this game means so much to me,” Fusco said in a statement released on Twitter. “I’ve had up and downs throughout my life and this is a small hurdle I will have to get over.
“… 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! #skol”
Harris, who started at right guard for the Vikings in 2015, did not play at all in 2016 because of an illness that neither the team nor the player would reveal. He was placed on the non-football illness list in training camp, and the team decided to pay $400,000 of Harris’ scheduled $1.9 million base salary with him on the NFI list, freeing up cap space to sign Jake Long in October.
The guard said after the season he hoped to resume his career in 2017 but said he had not yet been cleared by trainers to do so.
When asked about Harris’ future on Jan. 3, coach Mike Zimmer said, “I honestly don’t think I should divulge this. I mean, it’s kind of a freak thing that’s happened, and so we’re trying to get it taken care of. That’s all. It’s the best thing for Mike right now.”