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The future of the Vikings, part 4: The offensive line

Oct 31, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Minnesota Vikings center Joe Berger (61) takes the field before a game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

“The Future of the Vikings” is a series of articles looking at everything from strengths and weaknesses to draft and free agent options to schemes and trends heading into 2017 and beyond. Read Part 1 on quarterbacks herePart 2 on the running backsPart 3, the wide receivers and for Part 4, the offensive line…

Where do we even start?

It doesn’t take the Washington Post’s best investigative journalists to tell you that the Minnesota Vikings’ offensive line struggled mightily in 2016. But as we look toward the future of the offensive line, there are a number of questions that must be answered. First, whether it was simply tough-luck injuries that caused the Vikings to have so much trouble up front or was there something the front office and coaching staff should have done differently? Also, which linemen should stay, which need to be replaced? Where will the Vikings find their replacements?

Let’s begin with the first question: Could this have been avoided?

Last offseason, the Vikings put together the NFL’s most expensive offensive line. They picked up the fifth-year option on tackle Matt Kalil’s deal, making him the highest paid tackle in the league, then signed guard Alex Boone to a four-year, $26.8 million deal and tackle Andre Smith to a one-year $3.5 million contract.

The Vikings could have chosen a long-term extension for Kalil or let him walk, but since he had been serviceable at left tackle in 2015 and had shown flashes of greatness early in his career, the team decided to give it one more kick at the can.

Bringing him back on the fifth-year option is worth questioning. Casting aside his outstanding rookie year as an anomaly, the website Pro Football Focus, which grades players based off of game tape, gave Kalil an average grade of 61.2 between 2013 and 2015. That grade would have put him 53rd of 81 this year. That’s replacement-level play. The move, however, could be justified by any remaining potential, considering he was the fourth-overall pick and he was coming off a below average, but serviceable, year. There was also no reason for the team to believe durability would be an issue since Kalil, who went on IR after Week 2 with a hip injury, played in every game in his first four NFL seasons.

Boone had been a consistently solid player during his time in San Francisco. In six years, PFF graded him above 70 each year and as high as 86.9 in 2012. And he lived up to his reputation, ranking 34th in the NFL among guards in 2016.

The decision to sign Smith, even on a one-year deal, was not a wise one. His play had gone down for three straight years before the Vikings brought him in. Backup right tackle Jeremiah Sirles was more effective this year than Smith had been in 2015 with the Bengals. Even if Smith had stayed healthy, the Vikings likely would have received sub-par play at right tackle.

Andre Smith’s PFF grades:

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So just in terms of last offseason, the Vikings’ process may have been problematic in two of their three major moves.

When it comes to depth on the offensive line, there wasn’t much the Vikings could do about solid tackle Phil Loadholt retiring at age 30 or Mike Harris missing the entire year with an unexplained ailment. The release of long-time center John Sullivan proved costly when the Vikings saw injuries to Boone, center Joe Berger and tackle Brandon Fusco, but the decision to release him made sense because of his $5.83 million cap hit.

With all that said, there was one player on the offensive line that deserves credit for a good performance and that’s center Joe Berger, who PFF ranked 13th and was solid at both center and guard. Berger was a good find by the front office.

Now, about the draft… 

After picking Kalil with the fourth overall selection in 2012, the Vikings took a grand total of zero offensive linemen in the first three rounds of the NFL draft. The two highest linemen picks since then were TJ Clemmings (2015) and Willie Beavers (2016), both in the fourth round.

At a glance, it is maddening to think a team could avoid drafting such a valuable position. But the Vikings picked six defensive starters in the first three rounds during that time span, a quarterback and three skill position players (Cordarrelle Patterson, Jerick McKinnon and Laquon Treadwell).

The Dallas Cowboys’s incredible offensive line has been the go-to example for criticizing the Vikings’ lack of draft assets spent up front, but the Oakland Raiders – the runaway best offensive line in the AFC – built their line through free agency, signing guard Kelechi Osemele and tackle Donald Penn. It isn’t how, but who.

Speaking of that, the “who” part of the draft was a major part of the Vikings’ offensive line failures, too.

Both Clemmings and Beavers were long shots, drafted on their size and athleticism. Sometimes long shots turn into Danielle Hunter, so there is nothing wrong with taking swings in the later rounds, but these two picks came up snake eyes when the Vikings desperately needed them.

On Beavers first: He became the highest drafted player to be cut in the preseason and no other team signed him. The Vikings eventually brought him back on the practice squad and he got into one game against the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving Day.

If there was a single player most responsible for the Vikings missing the playoffs it was Clemmings. He rated as the NFL’s worst tackle by PFF, regressing even further from a very bad rookie campaign.

screen-shot-2017-01-07-at-12-29-52-pm

It isn’t the fact that the Vikings drafted Clemmings that is worth criticizing, it’s that they kept playing him.

By Week 5, it was not just apparent but obvious that Clemmings was a liability. Houston edge rusher Whitney Mercilus cruised right by him on multiple occasions for free shots on quarterback Sam Bradford.

Following the game, the Vikings signed tackle Jake Long. Instead of replacing Clemmings with Long, the Vikings moved Clemmings to right tackle. The results were just as disastrous.

After an inauspicious debut against the Philadelphia Eagles, Long actually played pretty well before suffering a season-ending – and potentially career-ending – injury against Washington.

Were the Vikings left with no other options but to keep Clemmings? Well, we got a test case on that hypothesis in Week 17. The starting tackle went down in the first half, opening the door for Rashod Hill to play for the first time. Hill was signed off the Jaguars’ practice squad after Long went down. PFF graded him a 77.0 for his performance.

The Vikings could have also listened to Alex Boone, who asked to play left tackle after Long’s injury. While he has played guard for most of his NFL career, Boone was a tackle in college and his 6-foot-8 frame and athleticism almost undoubtedly would have allowed for a better performance.

So to answer the question about whether the Vikings could have avoided having the league’s worst offensive line, the answer is yes.

Now what?

Learn from the mistakes of the past, right?

If the Vikings part ways with running back Adrian Peterson, they will have $41 million in cap space according to Spotrac’s roster manage tool.

It is safe to say that Joe Berger and Alex Boone will be back in their starting roles. Everything else is up for improvement, including right guard after Brandon Fusco had a difficult season.

Let’s have a look at the tackles, starting with the left side… (charts via Overthecap.com)

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Despite his age, 35, Whitworth will be the most sought after lineman in free agency. Pro Football Focus ranked him No. 2 in the league among tackles, a shade above Joe Thomas of the Browns and just below Washington’s Trent Williams. That ranking was no fluke for Whitworth.

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Whitworth, who is 6-foot-7, 330-pounds, still moves very well for his age and has been healthy during his long career, missing just six games since entering the league in 2006.

Have a look at him eliminating pass rusher Olivier Vernon on a key play in the fourth quarter against the New York Giants.

Adding to his value, Whitworth even played guard toward the end of the season when the Bengals suffered injuries up front.

Would he be willing to leave Cincinnati and how much might he cost?

“My first choice is to play left tackle in 2017 somewhere,” Whitworth told Bengals.com. “Hopefully here. My No. 1 choice is here. To me it’s about putting the best people out there playing football. I think I have a talent that’s rare at left tackle in pass protection. There are just not many guys out there that are good at that level.”

That quote certainly does not read like a guy dead-set on staying and the Vikings could offer him the full-time left tackle spot.

They would have to make Whitworth one of the top paid left tackles in the NFL, which would mean paying him an average annual value of more than his current $9 million, but probably not as much as Trent Williams, who is making $13.2 million.

The only other player listed as a left tackle that would be a reasonable option is Kalil.

Here are the right tackles:

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Starting at the top, Vollmer missed this season with hip and shoulder injuries. When healthy, he ranked toward the top of the league, scoring PFF ratings of 80 or higher every year between 2009 and 2014. His play slipped, presumably because of injury, in 2015. If he is healthy, the Vikings should consider him an option, but not for more than a one-year deal.

Detroit tackle Riley Reiff will receive a lot of interest this offseason. The former first-round pick has consistently been in the middle of the league in PFF rankings. The important note about his 2012-2015 years: Reiff played left tackle during those seasons. He was only moved to the right side this year when the Lions drafted Tyler Decker. His comments about the move suggested it wasn’t a problem, but you can bet Reiff wants to return to the left side.

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Baltimore right tackle Ricky Wagner ranked ninth in PFF scores in pass blocking and 19th overall. His numbers are a big improvement over last season, but almost identical to his scores in 2014. At 27 years old, Wagner will be looking for a long-term contract, possibly in the same range as Mitchell Schwartz of the Chiefs, who signed a five-year, $33 million deal with $15 million guaranteed last offseason.

Outside of Wagner and Reiff, the options are slim. New York’s Marshall Newhouse scored the same 67.2 (49th overall) PFF score as Jeremiah Sirles, but was much better (70.1 to 50.2) in pass protection.

If the Vikings want to improve their guard situation and move on from Fusco, the free agent market is well stocked.

The list includes:

  • Green Bay’s TJ Lang, rated eighth in PFF rankings
  • Arizona’s Evan Mathis, who was injured this season but has been one of the NFL’s elite guards by PFF rankings for the previous five years.
  • Tennessee’s Chance Warmack, also injured year but highly rated in the past
  • Cincinnati’s Kevin Zeitler, sixth in PFF rankings
  • Detroit’s Larry Warford, 22nd
  • Jets’ Brian Winters
  • Giants’ guard John Jerry, 33rd
  • New Orleans’ Jahri Evans, 36th

If the Vikings were to release Fusco, they would pay out $1.6 million in dead cap in 2017 and $0.8 in 2018.

(An aside: Thank you to commenters who pointed out the excellent group of free agent guards)

Then there’s the draft…

Without a first-round pick, it will be a challenge for the Vikings to find a starting tackle in the draft unless one of them has a surprise weed photo get released at the last minute like Laremy Tunsil did last year. They could attempt to trade up to draft the lone tackle on Mel Kiper’s Big Board, Alabama’s Cam Robinson.

The draft site Walter Football lists two other players, Ryan Ramcyzk from Wisconsin and Mike McGlinchey from Notre Dame as first-round possibilities. So by the time the Vikings pick, there is a good chance they will be looking at players with second-round grades like Temple’s Dion Dawkins and Garrett Bolles from Utah.

Dawkins is known as having good athleticism, but WalterFootball writes that he could project better as a guard. Bolles was a first-team all Pac-12 for the Utes. The question is whether he can stop speed rushers at the NFL level. Here’s the rest of the WalterFootball list.

Unless they really believe in one of these players, Minnesota might actually be better off picking a running back or skill position in the second and getting a tackle later on, even if that will face scrutiny from the fan base.

Trades/RFAs

The Vikings were one of the top teams rumored to be interested in Browns tackle Joe Thomas, who made his 10th straight Pro Bowl this year. Thomas is still under contract through 2019 and could be on the table at a high price. Without a first-round pick, though, it’s pretty tough to see the Browns giving away their future Hall of Fame tackle for less.

The other players who would be available would be on the market for a reason. Players like Jacksonville tackle Kevin Beachum, Carolina’s Michael Oher and L.A.’s Greg Robinson have all failed to meet expectations.

There are only two RFA left tackles, Baltimore’s James Hurst and Washington tackle Ty Nsekhe. The latter only played 386 snaps this year, but rated 37th by PFF rankings. Another part-time player, New England’s Cameron Fleming, is an RFA right tackle. He ranked 40th. Either of those backups might make for intriguing pickups via the offer sheet if the Vikings like what they see on tape.

The takeaway

There will be a lot of teams competing for the services of Whitworth, Reiff and Wagner, so if the Vikings want to acquire one or two of the three, they will have to break the bank. If they can’t get their hands on any of them, it will come down to being savvy in the trade and RFA market because the draft offers no guarantees.

Make no mistake: The Vikings cannot go into 2017 with only the current crop of tackles on their roster. They didn’t spend a ton of assets building up their defense through the draft and trade a first-round pick for Sam Bradford just to take shortcuts on the offensive line.

  • Brian

    Didn’t realize Spotrac had a roster management tool, thanks for the link! As a math major this was really interesting to play around with. What do you think the % chance the Vikings keep Fusco (looks like $800k cap hit for 2 years on release) and/or Boone(amazingly, looks like 0 cap hit if released) before the March 3rd day roster deadline? I would be tempted to try and renegotiate with both as I don’t know if their worth what they will make next year.

    • Brian

      Would be really interesting if you created a roster using the tool and wrote an article about it and sent it as an email to Spielman.

  • David Prestin

    Nice job Matthew. Very good read. AP’s 18 million could get us our tackles it seems so it may be time to let him go. 2 new tackles, maybe try Clemmings at rt guard. Draft some depth and we could be golden.

    • Matt Coller

      Thanks David. It does become more and more clear that the only way to fix the O-line is making that cap room via letting Peterson go. I think I’m pretty much done with Clemmings as an NFL player, though

      • David Prestin

        With his size, I’d think Clemmings could move people pretty well at lg or rg position. But you may be right. It was sickening watching him flailing at rushers this season.

  • Tim P. Mc Lellan

    Good article ! I know the Vikings have some extra choices in round 2 -4 this year. Anyone know where exactly those picks are?

    • Kodiak72

      Not known yet since will be compensatory picks from the dolphins which is after 32 of the round. So basically top of 4 for the best pick.

      • linus

        Compensatory picks don’t start until the end of round 3, so the Vikings will have either the 14th or 15th pick in rounds 2 and 3, depending on a coin flip with the Colts. They also have the Dolphins’ third rounder, but the exact position of that one will be determined by how far the Dolphins advance in the playoffs. In round four, the Vikings have their own and the Dolphins’ picks.

        • Tim P. Mc Lellan

          Thanks to both of you , that answers my question.

  • GordonGekko

    Spielman’s fault.

  • Kodiak72

    Good article it is going to be nearly impossible to fix this oline in 1 off season. I would love an article about how horrible oline play is in general since the new cba limiting padded practices. It be a good for vikings fans to see they are in the same boat as 20 other teams. That the Vikings will be competing with 20 other teams fo offensive line help.

    • Matt Coller

      Yeah. The tough decision will be whether to throw all the cap space at linemen for a short-term fix or spend draft assets and look down the road.

      • Kodiak72

        I think both are needed personally. I think because of the cba and limited pad practices it takes longer to develop lineman. The college game is not helping either with these gimmicky offenses were offensive linemen don’t face lots of blitzes or fresh opponents. I think get a fa or 2 for the draft picks to learn behind.

  • Topgunn

    With all of AP’s money coming off the books and elite options lacking in the draft the best route for a quick fix is obviously FA. At this point, Whitworth is the equal or slightly better player than Joe Thomas. The Vikings need to make Whitworth their #1 priority. If they fail to sign him, they may be forced to try to make a deal with the Browns for Thomas. Actually, I LOVE the idea of signing Whitworth and probably Reiff to fix our OT problems, giving us flexibility moving into the draft. No team in the NFL has a bigger need at BOTH OT positions than the Vikings. With Peterson and some other money coming off the books they can bookend their O-Line with two solid veterans and then focus on the best player available in in the 2nd round, and maybe that guy is a RB, maybe he’s a WR (if we lose Patterson), maybe he’s an O-Line or D-Lineman or a LBer or safety. I think the Vikings need to draft at least one RB, and possibly sign a veteran with multiple skill sets like Rex Burkhead. It’s going to be a REALLY interesting off season.

    • Duane Joseph

      Rex Burkhead? We are just fine at RB with McKinnon, Asiata, and CJ Ham. ALL money for free agency should only go to the OL. we’re going to start passing more anyway. I understand the desire for people to criticize our running backs but it all falls on the offensive line and even that undersized fullback we have. Unless people can point out times that there were gaping holes that our running backs just simply didn’t make it to them they deserve no criticism. They looked good last year and the only regression for them is because of the offensive line. Any quarterback, running back, and wide receiver is only as good as the offensive line blocking for them

      • Topgunn

        Duane, I think we could see AP gone and quite possibly Asiata, who I think is about as mediocre as you can get. Burkhead has skills and is VERY versatile. He’s been buried behind Hill and Bernard but he’s a tough runner, good receiver and above average pass blocker. We need to add a versatile veteran and draft at least one, possibly two RB’s. One interesting guy to take a flyer on in the 6th or 7th if he’s undrafted at that time would be Mixon (the girl puncher) from Oklahoma. He’s 225 pounds, shifty, and a great receiver. I’m disgusted by what he did but I believe in 2nd chances. Heck, I’ve forgiven (but not forgotten) Gopher basketball guards Mason and McBreyer for their incident last year and I’m enjoying watching Gopher Basketball again.

        • Jordan Musser

          There’s a guy in San Diego who just shattered Marshall Faulks SDSU records. That would be my pick

          • Topgunn

            He may be a little small (like McKinnon) but he’s a good one. It’s such a deep draft for RB’s that it’s a GREAT opportunity to upgrade the talent at the position in the year we should be saying “Bye-Bye’ to Peterson. I mention a guy like Burkhead because if we are going to upgrade from Asiata we should do it with an affordable but talented veteran.

      • Matt Coller

        I don’t think Burkhead would cost a whole lot in free agency. I think they’re fine with McKinnon, but can’t have another year of Asiata. He’s a replacement level player at this point.

    • Matt Coller

      Burkhead is kind of intriguing. If they part ways with AP, they’ll need two more running backs. He is similar to McKinnon, but having him mix in would mean having an option if McKinnon goes down or just allowing both to stay fresh. The only issue with trying to sign Whitworth and Reiff is that Reiff probably wants to be a left tackle.

      • Topgunn

        Matt, good counterpoint. I had thought Burkhead was a little bigger than McKinnon but they are pretty much the same size. Maybe Burkhead “plays” bigger. Still, with no A.P. and possibly no Asiata, the Vikes would need a veteran in their backfield. Also, you’re probably right about Reiff. Even though Whitworth is older, he’s 3x the player Reiff is. I’d sign Whitworth and draft a young guy for RT.

  • Vito Mazzariello

    Part 4? This is the number ONE issue they need to address.. Funny, this should of been part 1 of this series!!!!

    • Matt Coller

      Ha, maybe you’re right, Vito. But Marketing 101 class, I built up the hype for the O-line piece with QBs, RBs and WRs 🙂

  • linus

    “Without a first-round pick, though, it’s pretty tough to see the Browns giving away their future Hall of Fame tackle…” Actually, the Browns were reportedly willing to trade him away for a second-round pick at the deadline this year.

    • Matt Coller

      They were at the deadline, yes, but that doesn’t guarantee they would still do it for a second at the draft.

  • linus

    Brandon Albert could end up being an option. There’s been some speculation that the Dolphins will cut him for salary-cap reasons and so they can move Tunsil to his spot.

  • Bill

    Assuming one free agent LT is signed (obviously Whitworth would be ideal) the Vikes should draft the best OL (C, G, RT) in the 2nd round. Dixon is no T after watching Temple in their bowl game. Usually NFL caliber LT are not available in the 2nd round.

    • Matt Coller

      I agree with you, it’s very hard to find a LT past the first round. Guard/center are both interesting options. Could move Berger to guard if need be.

  • Odin1984

    Withworth in free agency and Dan feeney (draft OG Indiana ) instead of Fusco could be a really good start to fix things

    • Matt Coller

      Drafting a guard is probably a good idea. Fusco will have a spot next year probably but there wasn’t much in terms of options behind him

  • jeffreyinoc

    Treadwell to Cleve for Joe Thomas?

    • Matt Coller

      On Madden, maybe haha

  • Gordon Guffey

    I don see Spielman and company throwing big money at a 35 year old Whitworth either without a easy out contract that protected the team against father time ~ But I said before I have been wrong once in my life Smile Face 🙂

    On a side note Donald Penn was cut lose by Chilly without even a look see in camp ((( same goes for Shaun Hill who was already a better QB than TJ would ever become ))) and as we all know Penn went on to be a yearly pro bowlers for the Buc’s ~ He was a undrafted fine by then HC Mike Tice ~

    • Matt Coller

      Your last point is probably a good one. The 11-5 record may have convinced them they were better than they were…still, this is supposed to be the win-now window for the Vikings based on how they’ve built up the defense w/ top picks. Whitworth’s age would certainly be a concern, but if they’re viewing it as SUPER BOWL OR BUSTTTTT then that’s the type of move you make.

      • David Prestin

        But Jordan said every year should be win now yr. Heh….Just yanking your chain Jordo.

        • Jordan Musser

          I’ve been watching a team here in New England play to win every season. I am puking reading these win now comments.

          • David Prestin

            Same New England with arguably the best coach and QB in the history of the NFL? Nobody else is that lucky lol

          • Jordan Musser

            Yep but there is a lot to learn from them

      • Gordon Guffey

        I can see your point and with the 2017 Super Bowl being on the Vikings home field you very well could be right ~ I believe that right ~ Isn’t the 2017 Super Bowl in Minn. ???

  • cka2nd

    This is probably the best overall analysis of the OL I’ve read since the end of the 2015 season. Questions:

    1. Anyone know Easton’s PFF grade? I’ve been leaning towards inserting him or Kerin at Center, moving Berger over to RG and drafting our RG of the future in the third or second round.

    2. How did Joe Staley grade at PP this year, and could we pry him loose from San Francisco for a reasonable package of picks this year and next?

    • Matt Coller

      Easton’s PFF grade was 41.2 – not very good. My guess is that he got dinged really hard for a few of those goal line plays and that horrendous fumble in green bay. At times, he was decent, but I wouldn’t consider him a major part of the puzzle. On Staley, he was 24th among tackles. Might be a reallly good option for a trade, depending on the price. Probably worth a 2nd round pick

  • sandbun

    The really upsetting thing is that last year was the rare year that there were real options out there to fix our LT position. Instead, partly because of the amount of cap space he took up, we put all our eggs in the Kalil basket, and we know how that turned out. Cleveland was reportedly open to trading Thomas for a 1st round pick. That would’ve solved it for the next 3 years, and his cap hit for 2016 was less than Kalil’s. For roughly the price we paid for Kalil and Boone we could’ve gotten Osemele and Okung/Beachum/1st round tackle/resigned Kalil to a reasonable deal. Then we would’ve had an elite guard and someone who had shown the ability to move to LT if whoever we picked up wasn’t up to the job. Now there’s one 35 year old that someone will still have to break the bank for, Kalil, and some guys who were moved away from LT. Woo. And then we still need to fix RT and RG.

    • Carl A Brodin

      No one has said anything about Rashod Hill it was a small sample size but his man did not beat him. I like the potential of this guy we might have found our diamond in the rough at LT only time will tell but he already looks better than Kalil and Clemmings. If this guy works out we might have 3/4 of our offensive line set Hill Boone Berger/Easton.

      • Matt Coller

        I did talk with him and wrote about it http://www.1500espn.com/vikings-2/2017/01/tackle-rashod-hill-solid-nfl-debut/ …he did perform quite well and should have a chance to fight for a spot next year. I’d guess he’s more likely a solid backup.

        • Jordan Musser

          Matt – this is what irked me about last year. Zimmer, whether it was his own choice or if he was talked into it, played Clemmings regardless of how poor he played every week. What gives Clemmings the chance to play 2 seasons of horrible OT and Hill who played lights out better has to “prove” himself. That 1 game alone should tell us to cut Clemmings and keep Hill. To steal one from Jerry McGuire “this isn’t showfriends, it’s showbusiness”

    • Matt Coller

      Good point. It’s understandable why they would feel like there was something there with Kalil, but there was a pretty big sample of bad play that should have told them to have other options. You’re right to say that none of the UFA options are perfect. It’s not going to be an easy fix.

    • Duane Joseph

      Rick would have had yet another failed high pick on his resume if he let Khalil go last year. They could’ve not re-signed Sendejo and Wright and had more money to offer Osemele since they were dead set on keeping Khalil.

  • Jordan Musser

    Wow – this is a great article and really shows how hard it will be for us to improve the line and keep it in a good state for the years ahead.
    If we sign Whitworth we fork out a lot of money for a LT that will be with us for 1 maybe 2 years and if we are very fortunate maybe he plays 3 years but at his age that is a very big if. The other legit player is Reiff? He is an upgrade but not a superstar
    To be honest the best move might be Reiff or Wagner from Baltimore and Vollmer from New England. Reiff and Wagner are solid starters and Vollmer should be cheap and if healthy could be a great pickup
    This article does not go into detail of the upcoming UFA Guards that will be available. TJ Lang is a top 25 lineman and will be turning 30. He made just a shade over $5 million this past season. He could be a nice addition next to Berger. If we have Boone, Berger and Lang that might be one of the best interior lines in football. Also Warmack from Tennessee will be available and also only 25 years old. I know he was benched this year in Tennessee but he was one of the best OG’s in all of football until this season. We might want to kick the tires on him. Also Ron Leary from Dallas who is 27 years old will be available. It might be worth it for us to have a solid interior LG, C and RG and take our chances on Vollmer, Reiff or Wagner.
    If we are able to get 3 or 4 of these then we can take a chance on a couple lineman in draft. Mind you we did not go after Whitworth who will get probably around $10-$11 million. so that should give us about $25 million to play with for OL help. Leave the other $16 million for other areas. Shoot we might be able to grab another $4 million and leave $12 for other positions.

    • David Prestin

      Yeah, whitworth’s age is an issue. Unless Vikings feel the need to win now, I’d rather they sign someone younger. Maybe send 2nd rounder and wright to Cleveland for Thomas?

      • Jordan Musser

        Every year should be win now. But no need to break bank if a player is available that is efficient at half the cost. If we give $11 million plus signing bonus we just gave up $14 million or so to one guy. That would be a terrible move.

    • Matt Coller

      Vollmer is a pretty interesting option. The injuries would be a huge concern with him. Maybe if he was willing to take a short-term deal like Andre Smith took last year. The reason I didn’t dig into the guards, outside of making an article so long nobody would read, is that I think that Boone-Berger-Fusco are all probably back. You’re not wrong to say that they could look at that area to improve on right guard, but they’re paying Fusco a lot of $ and can’t move on easily. Considering he has been good at times in the past, they’ll probably stick with it. Appreciate your thoughtful comment.

  • Antileftist

    The Washington Post’s best investigative journalists are a joke nowadays as they are at most major newspapers.

    • Matt Coller

      I really just picked a newspaper randomly

  • AJ

    Big IF’s but here is what I would do.

    Left Tackle – sign Whitworth from Cinci to a 1 year stop gap deal until we know what we have in Hill and hopefully a rookie pick.

    Left Guard – sign Ron Leary from Dallas to a 3-4 year deal

    Center – Leave Berger and Easton

    Right Guard – cut Fusco and move Boone here. Boone was one of the best guards in the league on the right side with the 49ers. See if he can regain that magic.

    Right Tackle – let Clemmings, Hill, Harris, some rookies and maybe a cheap free agent (Vollmer from New England) battle it out.

    • Matt Coller

      They can’t really cut Fusco and have it make sense with the cap, they’ve have to pay a lot of dead money. One factor that I should have mentioned is Harris’s health. Thanks for bringing that up. Otherwise an interesting plan.

      • AJ

        I did not think about the cap ramifications on Fusco. Good point. His play is just declining so bad, hes not worth a roster spot. Maybe he retires do to his endless concussion problems? I also would like to see Clemmings released. He is worthless as an nfl tackle.

      • TJ Martylewski

        I honestly dont think its that unrealistic . Fusco has been playing poorly for a long time and it might be time to make the right moves instead of being to proud to show you gave the wrong guy a contract . The move would still free up cap and the dead moneh isnt to terrible , i think it was something like 1.4 this year and .8 next year . if cutting him frees us up to bring in someone new then good riddance

  • Gordon Guffey

    Maybe this helps push one of the good OT’s down low enough that Spielman can use some of the extra picks to move up into the first round to land a good one ~ Even if the Vikings have to settle for a right OT ~ Add a good one to Boone~Berger on each side of Easton and maybe a good rookie at right OT while maybe if they can somehow bring Kalil back on a prove it deal and let everyone fight it out for the 5 jobs on the OL ~

    Two left tackle prospects announce they’re NFL bound
    Posted by Zac Jackson on January 10, 2017, 2:47 PM EST

    Two highly regarded offensive tackle prospects have announced that they’re giving up their remaining college eligibility to enter the 2017 NFL Draft.

    Both Wisconsin’s Ryan Ramczyk and Florida State’s Roderick Johnson made official announcements of their intentions on Tuesday.

    A three-year starter at left tackle, Johnson won the Jacobs Blocking Trophy as the ACC’s top lineman in each of the last two seasons.

    Ramcyzk was a one-year starter at Wisconsin after starting his college career at Div. III Wisconsin-Stevens Point. Ramczyk had hip surgery last week and won’t be ready for the NFL Scouting Combine, but the injury didn’t cause him to miss any time last season.





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