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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Top free agent guard may hit the open market, will Vikings be interested?

By Matthew Coller

While the Minnesota Vikings will have their sights set on improving the tackle position when free agency opens on March 9, there may be a very good guard on the market.

Cincinnati Inquirer reporter Paul Dehner Jr. wrote this on the chances guard Kevin Zeitler could be re-signed by the Cincinnati Bengals:

“I continue to feel confident Kevin Zeitler will be playing elsewhere in 2017. When Bengals free agency comes up, it always starts with Andrew Whitworth and usually skips over the 26-year-old guard. Rightfully so for Whitworth, who plays at a premium position and lives at the heart of the Bengals leadership group. As teams watch the Alex Mack acquisition at center help catapult the Falcons offense they’ll look to interior linemen on the market to do the same and Zeitler might be the No. 1 guard available. He’s about to break the bank. Like Max Montoya who came before him, the fact the Bengals never valued guard as a position worth paying top of the market dollar hangs like a black cloud. We’ll see as free agency ramps up next month, but we put a 45 percent chance on his return in our free agent piece when the season ended and I’d drop it to 30 today.”

Zeitler rated as Pro Football Focus’s seventh best guard in the NFL this season and he ranks as their No. 1 free agent guard, just ahead of Green Bay’s TJ Lang.

“I haven’t talked to anyone, I haven’t heard anything, so I can truly say I have no idea what that situation is right now,” Zeitler told ESPN when asked about the Bengals’ interest in bringing him back.

At 26, the former first-round pick from Wisconsin is likely to be seeking a long-term contract that would be among the league’s most lucrative.

How much might that cost? Arizona Cardinals left guard Mike Iupati signed a five year, $40 million deal with back in 2015 and Oakland guard Kelechi Osemele is making $58.5 million over five years with the Oakland Raiders. On the right side, Pittsburgh’s David DeCastro agreed to a five year, $50 million contract extension last offseason.

While Zeitler would be a good investment, dolling out big money to another guard might not be the wisest way to fix the Vikings’ offensive line if it precludes them from chasing top free agent tackles like Baltimore’s Rick Wagner and Detroit’s Riley Reiff. Left guard Alex Boone is already making the fifth most per year of any guard in the NFL at $6.7 million.

Releasing Adrian Peterson and Brandon Fusco would create around $40 million in cap space – easily enough to sign both Zeitler and a top tackle – another big contract for a guard could make things tricky down the road as the Vikings will eventually need to pay big contracts to star players like Stefon Diggs, Danielle Hunter and Xavier Rhodes.

Moving Joe Berger to guard and signing a free agent center like Arizona’s A.Q. Shipley could be another – much cheaper – fix. There is also a strong likelihood that the top centers in the NFL draft won’t be taken until the second round.

Still, after ranking dead last in yards per carry last season, you can bet the Vikings will be checking in on every possible free agent upgrade.

The post Top free agent guard may hit the open market, will Vikings be interested? appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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