The Minnesota Moving Company, also known as the Vikings offensive line, mostly got moved in the 2016 season. They were ranked 29th by Pro Football Focus as their overall ranking. They also ranked 30th overall in performance by Football Outsiders. Minnesota was ranked by PFF as the 15th best offensive line going into 2016 season. So they definitely underperformed and part of that was due to injury. Matt Kalil and Andre Smith were the projected starting left tackle and staring right tackle, respectively. Kalil and Smith both ended the on the injured reserve. The Vikings offensive line only gave up 37 sacks to Sam Bradford. However, the performance by the numerous linemen replacing the projected starters was atrocious at best.
T.J. Clemmings, was ranked as the the last left tackle multiple times by PFF. He actually was given one of the worst rankings in the 10 year history of PFF. His ranking was at 28.4. Even when Clemmings did something well, he committed a penalties. He should just not be in the league or if he is he should be the absolute last hope for your offensive line.
Jake Long, who the Vikings signed off the street, was starting to get his feet under him when he was injured in the Vikings loss the Redskins. He ruptured or tore his left achilles and was placed on injured reserve. So that replacement attempt to get Clemmings off the field, didn’t work for very long.
Jeremiah Sirles was not as bad as Clemmings, but definitely not as good as the Vikings needed him to be at right tackle. Opinions have come up that he could be a better guard or could be a decent back up swing guard. He could perhaps play guard and tackle or just fill in when needed. If he becomes a starter, I feel there would be some backlash from fans and the performance could be down. We will see how Sirles develops but he would be better served as a back up and an emergency type starter for now.
The interior of the Vikings line wasn’t the best, but I only see Brandon Fusco’s future being in doubt. He has regressed since singing a contract extension right before the start of the 2014 season. So he has 3 years left on his 5 year, $25 million contract extension, the good news is for the Vikings that only $6 million was guaranteed. So basically all of the money remaining is all incentive or good performance money. They could cut bait with him completely if they wanted to. Nick Easton and Joe Berger may compete for the center spot and one would take the back-up job. They also may draft a center who could eventually start there. Alex Boone most definitely has the starting left guard sealed up at least for this upcoming season if healthy.
Where does the Vikings help come from? Great question. Looking at the free agent tackle class is less than appealing. At most a handful of names look even remotely encouraging. One intriguing possibility to start at left tackle next year, is Andrew Whitworth. Whitworth has played his entire NFL career in a Cincinnati Bengals uniform. He is 35 years old and will turn 36 in September. So one might say he’s over the hill, however, he has been playing at a Pro Bowl level even into his mid thirties. Coming into the season, he was rated as one of the best 10 linemen in the NFL by PFF. He ranked 7th on a list of linemen at every position. Whitworth also has been to the Pro Bowl the last two years, also First Team All-Pro in 2015 and second team in 2014. He still was pretty darn good again this season. He has also been extremely durable throughout his career. Will he want to leave Cincinnati? That could be the biggest question of them all. He has played there for his whole career and may not want to leave at this point in his career. However, if the Vikings give him an offer he can’t refuse for a 1-2 year deal he may not pass it up.
Other tackles in this free agency class are few and far between, at least in relating to decent to good performing ones. Riley Reiff, who played right tackle this year for the Detroit Lions, has played left tackle more so in his career. Some experts say he had a decent year and some say the opposite. He would be a fit at either tackle spot for the Vikings, but they would likely want to get the most out of him. This decision should be made based on how he’s performed at both spots. The Vikings may decide to move him back to left tackle if they strike out on Whitworth or others.
The Vikings could decide to bring back Matt Kalil, but expecting good performance and for him to be healthy could be a mistake. I doubt a veteran like Sebastian Vollmer, New England Patriots offensive tackle, would be interested in coming to Minnesota. Why would you leave Brady and or Belichick? The only reason would be money, which the Vikings do have, but doubt he leaves the Patriots.
The guard class in free agency is a lot nicer to look at. Kevin Zeitler (Bengals), T.J. Lang (Packers), Ron Leary (Cowboys), Chance Warmack (Titans), and Luke Joeckel (Jaguars), are all scheduled to be free agents. This is assuming no Franchise Tags are used. All of these guards could either battle Brandon Fusco or take his starting job. The Vikings may decide to take a look at getting guards in the draft instead, but that is to be determined.
The Vikings have the potential to be spending a lot in free agency, if they got Andrew Whitworth it could be the biggest signing of them all. He could bridge the gap to the future Vikings left tackle, as well as provide more leadership to the younger guys in the locker room. The Vikings have a lot of cap flexibility, actually the most in the league according to some sources. Will they go hog wild in free agency? They might be forced to.
Later this week I will take a look at potential draft picks for the Vikings, both on the offensive line and at the running back position. Until then, follow me on Twitter @RadioReuben to stay up to date on the latest Vikings moves and my opinions on what they should do.