Photo: SI.com

State of the Vikings O-Line Entering Offseason 2020-21

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So here we are. The Minnesota Vikings are now 6-9 and officially eliminated from expanded playoff contention in 2020. With just one game left on the schedule, it’s time to talk about what’s next for our favorite professional football team.

The offseason conversation needs to start in a very familiar place, the offensive line. The Vikings seem so close, yet so far away from competence at OL that the uncertainty is maddening. At this point, we no-longer know where “the process” is up front.

Where there isn’t uncertainty on the field, there’s uncertainty on paper. O-line seems to be a position group of focus for Rick Spielman every offseason, but this year’s could prove to be the most crucial in recent memory.

Let’s take a look under the hood, from left to right.

Left Tackle

Starter: Riley Reiff (32) – After some serious contract consternation right before the season kicked off, 2020 may have been the best of Reiff’s career. It’s definitely been his best in purple.

Riley Reiff has the 2nd-highest PFF grade out of all Vikings offensive linemen, trailing only the young anchor on the other side of the line, Brian O’Neil. He’s tied for the team lead in offensive snaps (1,003) and Riley has been arguably the most trustworthy frontline performer of 2020.

He’s still under contract in 2021, if the Minnesota Vikings want to bring him back for $14 million, which they absolutely should. If they were to cut him, they’d pay $2.2 million in dead cap (according to Spotrac.com).

It’d be an easy divorce, should Spielman decide to move on, but I really don’t think the Vikings can afford to do so. Rick forced Reiff into a paycut before the 2020 season, however, so we’ll see what his worth is for Rick entering 2021.


YearCap HitDead Cap (if cut)Potential Savings
2020$8.2M$10.4M-$2.2M
2021$13.95M$2.2M$11.75M
2022UFAUFA
Spotrac.com

Left Guard

Starter?: Dru Samia (23) – Yes, Dru Samia is the only “guard” currently on the roster, outside of Ezra Cleveland, for 2021. Dakota Dozier, who is tied with Riley Reiff for the team’s most offensive snaps in 2020 (1,003), is an unrestricted free agent heading into this offseason.

Something needs to happen at guard. Like… desperately.



Center

Starter: Garrett Bradbury – Two seasons into his career and Garrett Bradbury has piled up 31 of a possible 31 starts. Yet… we know nothing about how good of an NFL center he is.

The Minnesota Vikings have been unable to surround Bradbury with any consistency on either side, rotating in terrible guard after terrible guard, until Ezra Cleveland gave them a little bit of hope in 2020.

The NC State alum holds a 61.2 PFF grade this season but that’s held afloat by his 67+ run grade. His pass grade is a rough 45.2. Can Spielman find some help for Bradbury up the middle? If so, will he take a huge step forward in 2021? Hopefully, we find out one way or the other.



Right Guard

Starter: Ezra Cleveland – I’m putting Ezra Cleveland at guard because the Minnesota Vikings cannot afford to let Riley Reiff go. That means Cleveland stays at RG, where he has played all of his snaps in 2020.

It’s been an up and down rookie season for the Boise State Alum, which should have been expected. He’s going through a side switch, from left to right and a position switch, from tackle to guard.

Still the Vikings and the man to his left, Garrett Bradbury, need him to improve heavily next year, if the team as a whole is going to take a step forward. Getting a guard to hold down the left side of the interior line would help…

Right tackle

Starter: Brian O’Neil – He’s been arguably the best Vikings offensive lineman this season and holds the best PFF grade (77.8). He’s the only Minnesota O-lineman who has either a pass block or rush block grade above 80 (RB – 83.3).

Currently, there is no problem with Brian O’Neil, either on the field or on paper. He’s been great and his rookie deal still has one season left on it. Spielman is getting the Wilf checkbook ready, though. This is a man who’s getting paid before 2022.


YearCap HitDead Cap (if cut)Potential Savings
2020$1.2M$642K$580K
2021$1.4M$321K$1.08M
2022UFAUFA
Spotrac.com

Backups

The only current backup available at offensive line for the 2021 season according to Spotrac.com, is (RT) Oli Udoh. Rashod Hill, Dakota Dozier and Rashod Hill are all set to be free agents.

This could prove to be the most crucial offseason for this Minnesota Vikings offensive line. Really though, it shouldn’t be that difficult to make big strides.

Spielman should be able to find a competent guard to place on the left side of Bradbury (via draft, free agency and/or trade), for under $8 million dollars.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan

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