Cementing Cleveland at Guard Sunday Could Hint at Vikings 2021 OL Plans
Win or lose Sunday, the Minnesota Vikings will finish their 2020 season at Ford Field vs the Detroit Lions. Kirk Cousins, Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen will all suit up but other stars won’t.
Dalvin Cook will not be available, following the sad and surprising death of his father earlier in the week. Eric Kendricks will miss another game with the same calf injury he’s been nursing for weeks and Cam Dantzler has also been ruled out.
There’s one expected absence, however, that’s been talked up more than the others mentioned above. Riley Reiff hit the COVID-19 list earlier this week. As of now, the team has not announced whether or not he will play vs the Lions but there’s growing concern that he will not.
Plans for Ezra will not change.
According to Gary Kubiak, Ezra Cleveland will play right guard on Sunday, no matter what Reiff’s playing status is. He was drafted as the future LT and played there for most of his college career at Boise State.
#Vikings set to give Rashod Hill the start at left tackle, Gary Kubiak says, with Ezra Cleveland sticking at right guard. Riley Reiff on COVID list. They want to keep Cleveland there for now, Kubiak says, adding where he'll play in 2021 will be a "question in the building," too— Andrew Krammer (@Andrew_Krammer) December 31, 2020
Keeping Cleveland at guard for 2020’s last game, even if Reiff doesn’t play, makes sense for a few different reasons. Obviously moving him back to the LT could hinder progress he’s made on the right side.
On top of that, guard play for the Vikings behind Cleveland has been the flimsiest in the league. Kubiak also admitted that Rashod Hill deserves his chance at tackle. I’d agree, especially if the alternative is Dru Samia getting another shot at RG.
But with all of that being said… left tackle is just too important of a position to fuck up. If the Minnesota Vikings were seriously considering Cleveland at LT in 2021 then it seems almost impossible that they wouldn’t take this opportunity to evaluate him there. Even if it’s just a “pre-test”, where the results wouldn’t be used against him going forward.
Riley Reiff still has one season left on his deal. If he plays 2021 like he did 2020, the $11.75 million he’d count against the cap would be much less than his worth. Rick Spielman already has enough questions that need to be answered on the OL this offseason. Why add another unnecessary one?
Keeping Reiff in purple would mean only one starting offensive line spot that needs to be addressed (hypothetically), heading into the offseason. You’d have Reiff at LT, Bradbury at C, Cleveland at RG and O’Neil at RT.
Missing Sunday could cost Riley Reiff $1 million
For Reiff, there COULD BE a lot of money riding on week 17. Riley needs to be on the field for 93.7% of Minnesota’s offensive plays in 2020, to reach a $1 million roster bonus. If he plays even a handful of snaps on Sunday, he’d be almost guaranteed to hit it.
If tackle Riley Reiff doesn't play on Sunday and the #Vikings run 67 or more plays and he falls below the 93.75 percent threshold for his additional $1 million bonus, I would be surprised if the Vikings didn't pay it to him anyhow.— Chris Tomasson (@christomasson) December 30, 2020
Even if he doesn’t play, the Vikings would have to run 67 offensive plays or more for Reiff to drop under 93.7% and miss out on that bonus. But here’s the catch.
The Minnesota Vikings offense averages 66.8 plays per game…
Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan