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Zulgad: Vikings make the right moves by shoring up the offensive line

By Judd Zulgad

The Vikings continued the makeover of their offensive line Thursday, agreeing to a one-year deal with veteran Andre Smith that reportedly could be worth $4.5 million but only $1 million guaranteed.

While Smith isn’t going to break the bank, the sixth-overall pick in the 2009 draft will be in a position to start training camp atop the depth chart at right tackle. His competition will come from veteran Phil Loadholt, who missed last season because of a ruptured Achilles’ suffered in the preseason.

Loadholt recently agreed to a restructured contract that contains no guaranteed money, meaning the Vikings’ second-round pick in 2009 could be the odd man out.

At this point Minnesota’s projected starting offensive line for 2016 will feature Matt Kalil at left tackle, free-agent acquisition Alex Boone at left guard, John Sullivan at center, Brandon Fusco at right guard and Smith at right tackle.

Boone, who bolted San Francisco to sign a four-year, $26.8 million deal that includes $10 million in guarantees, will enter training camp with the job locked up.

Sullivan, who has no guaranteed money on a $5.4 million base salary, will have to prove he has recovered from two back surgeries to regain his starting role from Joe Berger. Fusco, expected to return to right guard after one unsuccessful season on the left side, figures to face competition from Mike Harris.

Smith, meanwhile, not only will have to prove he’s an upgrade from Loadholt but also could be challenged by T.J. Clemmings, who struggled in his rookie season after being forced to replace Loadholt.

This should give new offensive line coach Tony Sparano some depth with which to work.

The other guy who figures to have no real competition is Kalil. While it’s not known if Kalil will ever meet the expectations many set for him in 2012, when he was the fourth-overall pick in the draft, the Vikings are going to give him every chance to prove himself by paying him $11.1 million on the final season of his contract.

It would be a stretch to say the Vikings’ offensive line will jump from subpar to upper echelon with the additions that have been made – Kalil’s progress, or lack of it, will be a huge factor – but general manager Rick Spielman and coach Mike Zimmer deserve credit for realizing some significant surgery had to be done on this unit and utilizing the free agency process to help them do so.

The post Zulgad: Vikings make the right moves by shoring up the offensive line appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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