What Does Releasing Pat Elflein Mean for Riley Reiff and Ezra Cleveland?

Mike Zimmer can try to spin it all he wants to. The Minnesota Vikings activating and releasing Pat Elflein Saturday morning was weird. Sure the offensive line has looked better of late… but could it have looked worse than what it did for the first handful of games this season?

Some dude named Dakota Dozier is currently starting at LG for the Vikings. When Elflein was released on Saturday, “sources” said Brett Jones is going to be elevated again from the practice squad (lol) vs the Bears. I’m sure teams were foaming at the mouth to steal Jones from us if we didn’t call him up…. (not).

We may never find out what exactly happened with Pat. We do know a few things, though. The Vikings’ offensive line is now as thin as the ice that sits on our Minnesota lakes today (there isn’t any ice on our lakes yet) but it has 4 starters that are playing pretty well and showing promise for the future.

Leaving Ezra Cleveland at RG

If you were planning on Ezra Cleveland being your starting left tackle for 2021 and beyond, then that’s probably where you would want to play him now. But after holding onto Reiff at the trade deadline and now releasing Elflein, it’s clear the Vikings are happy to play Cleveland at right guard, not left tackle.

Those two positions are very different. Cleveland is going through both a position AND side change. Most O-linemen don’t like to do one or the other, let alone both. I can’t imagine the Vikings making moves this drastic if their foreseeable future plans had Cleveland at LT. I expect them to play Cleveland at RG into 2021.

That means you re-sign Riley Reiff, right?

If the Minnesota Vikings plan on keeping their 2020 2nd round rookie at RG, then they can’t afford to let Riley Reiff go at the end of this season. Luckily for them, Reiff is under contract through the 2021 season. Does that surprise anyone?

The Wilfs would have to pay him more than they have in any year yet… but $14M (cap-hit) isn’t overpaying for a starting LT. Let’s not forget about the pay-cut they forced him to take before the 2020 season. Would he take a haircut again? He’s only supposed to make $11.6M in cash so you’d think the Vikings could re-work the deal so it’s easier on the cap and Reiff still makes as much in cash. We’ll see..

At this point, I’d say Reiff is more likely to play his home games in Minnesota next season, than not. If you would have told me that before the trade deadline, I would have laughed at you. I just don’t see any way Spielman can find a better bang for his buck in free agency.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan