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Bleacher Report – Vikings

How much will top tackles cost in free agency?

By Matthew Coller

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You can bet the Minnesota Vikings won’t be the only team making offers to the best left and right tackles on the market this offseason.

Depending on which website you use, the Vikings head into the offseason with around $20 million in cap space, which ranks them in the bottom five in the NFL. However, the OvertheCap.com cap calculator indicates that the Vikings could have around $37 million if Adrian Peterson is released, $43 million by releasing Peterson and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd.

Add guard Brandon Fusco and defensive lineman Brian Robison to the cut list, the Vikings would shoot up to 11th in the league in cap room. But Minnesota would still have less than half of the cap room of the Cleveland Browns, who will be working with over $100 million this offseason.

Cleveland won’t be on the market for a left tackle so long as Joe Thomas wants to stay, but teams like the Indianapolis Colts and Seattle Seahawks have more than $30 million to spend and will be desperate to find protection for their elite quarterbacks.

Another factor that will jack up the price is that there are only a handful of proven tackles on the free agent market. NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal wrote that Baltimore right tackle Rick Wagner could get paid more than $10 million per year. If that’s the case, how much will top left tackle Andrew Whitworth demand?

New England star left tackle Nate Solder may have set the bar when he signed a two-year extension with the Patriots in 2015 worth $20.1 million. Solder’s cap hit made up 6.85% of New England’s cap. Next year, the cap is expected to be around $170 million. That would make Whitworth’s asking price around $11.6 million per season.

Of course, Solder’s deal was an extension with a team that routinely competes for Super Bowls. Considering the competition on the market for a left tackle who ranked as the NFL’s second best by Pro Football Focus, that number could be much larger.

Riley Reiff will be the most interesting tackle to watch in free agency. During his time with the Detroit Lions, Reiff was mostly a left tackle, but was switched to the right side this season. His PFF ratings were consistently between 70 and 77, which put him between average and above average as left tackle. Assuming Reiff wants to move back to the left side and get left tackle money,

Two comparable tackles whose PFF scores were regularly in the above average range (and recently signed contracts) are Buffalo’s Cordy Glenn and Miami’s Brandon Albert.

Glenn signed a 5-year, $60 million extension with with $36 million guaranteed, and an average annual salary of $12 million (numbers via Spotrac.com) and Albert was picked up

Albert was inked to a 5-year, $47 million free agent deal with the Dolphins with $26 million guaranteed, and an average annual salary of $9.4 million. His cap hit this year was $10.2 million.

Those prices projected to 2017 cap money would be a lot to pay for Reiff, who has never been top notch.

It is very hard to say what Vikings left tackle Matt Kalil might be asking since he missed almost the entire season and has been below average by PFF rankings every year outside of his rookie season. Would he go for a 1-year, prove-it deal with high guaranteed money? Is that a risk the Vikings can afford to take with a win-now mentality?

Russell Okung of the Broncos, a former sixth overall pick, agreed to a massive 5-year, $53 million deal with zero guaranteed money, meaning the team could cut him any time with under $1 million in penalty. Would Kalil sign up for that?

If prices for the top tackles push the Vikings out of the market either because they select other teams or out-price what Minnesota’s front office is willing to spend, there will be cheaper options, but few of them are favorable.

Carolina’s Mike Remmers, an unrestricted free agent right tackle, has an underwhelming history with the Panthers, but his PFF scores would make him a significant upgrade from what the Vikings received last year.

Houston right tackle Derek Newton, who has had up and down scores by PFF, signed in 2015 for five years with a $5.5 million cap hit.

That price will probably be much higher even for average-to-below average tackles because there simply aren’t many of those either. Remmers and New York’s Marshall Newhouse (ranked 46th this year by PFF) are the only ones in the 30-50 range at right tackle. Is either worth investing more than $6-8 million in cap space? Probably not.

Creativity may be the name of the game for the Vikings. New England backup tackle Cameron Fleming, who scored a 71.1 in 297 snaps, is a Restricted Free Agent. With Nate Solder in place and Marcus Cannon emerging as an elite right tackle, the Patriots wouldn’t match a big-money deal.

Trades should be a major consideration. Even if Joe Thomas isn’t on the table, San Francisco’s Joe Staley has a deal through 2020 with a reasonable $7.4 average annual salary. Dallas may look to move Doug Free to make room for young tackle La’el Collins.

However they make it happen, the Vikings cannot go into next season with as many question marks as they did in 2016. But it is very unlikely that they can afford the top left and right tackle and it is clear that depth in free agency is limited.

The post How much will top tackles cost in free agency? appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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