Vikings waive DE James after troubled, injury-riddled career

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Vikings on Friday waived Erasmus James, the former first-round draft pick who had a series of knee injuries during his time with Minnesota.

The defensive end was one of the top-rated pass rushers in 2005 when Minnesota chose him out of Wisconsin with the 18th overall pick. But after notching four sacks in 15 games during his rookie season, James tore the ACL in his left knee in Week 2 of the 2006 season.

James returned last season and played sparingly in six games. He suffered a similar injury to the same knee in Week 13 against Detroit and again landed on injured reserve.

The Vikings waived him after he failed a physical.

"We decided to waive Erasmus and we wish the best for him in the future," coach Brad Childress said in a statement issued by the team.

After his second injury, Childress said he expected James to make a full recovery. The 25-year-old James attended the four days of "organized team activities" this week and participated on a limited basis.

Calls to James' agent, Ethan Lock, seeking comment were not immediately returned.

The injuries weren't the only factor that made James' tenure in Minnesota a little rocky. He got into a fight with running back Chester Taylor in the locker room late last season and was openly ridiculed by teammates during his rookie year when he responded harshly to some hazing by the veterans.

His talent as a pass rusher, however, was never in question during his first year, and the Vikings sorely missed him on the defensive line the last two seasons, an absence that contributed to the team ranking last in the league in pass defense.

James' injury, coupled with Kenechi Udeze's leukemia diagnosis, made defensive end a priority for the Vikings in free agency. They made a big splash in April when they traded for Kansas City All-Pro Jared Allen, who led the NFL with 15 sacks last season.

Now, with Allen, Ray Edwards and Brian Robison, the Vikings are on much more stable ground at the position, though defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said Thursday they will need someone like Jayme Mitchell or Ellis Wyms to step up and provide depth.

James leaves the Vikings with five career sacks and 38 tackles. Making the move this long before the start of training camp gives James the chance to catch on with another team.