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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Vikings countdown to free agency: Right tackles

By Matthew Coller

Rick wagner

With the Super Bowl over, the next big NFL date is March 9, when the new league year begins and free agency opens. The Minnesota Vikings are expected to be active in free agency, so as we make our way toward the start of the signing period, we will go position-by-position, analyzing which free agents the Vikings could/should be interested in. We began with the quarterbacks, then went on to the running backs, then the wide receivers, left tackles and now, the right tackles…

Second time’s a charm

Last offseason, the Vikings took a chance on a right tackle whose play had faded over the previous few seasons in Andre Smith. The move went over like a lead balloon. In the 182 snaps Smith played, he performed as poorly as any of the lowest ranked linemen in the NFL, scoring a 39.3 Pro Football Focus rating, which would have been 70th of 78 if he had enough plays to qualify. After Smith was sidelined for the year with an injury, the Vikings tried TJ Clemmings on the right side, but moved him back to the left after Jake Long got hurt. Then the reigns were turned over to Jeremiah Sirles, who did an admirable job for a career backup, though he should not be considered a full-time option. All that leaves the Vikings on the hunt for major improvement.

Rick Wagner, Baltimore Ravens

Pro Football Focus rank: 18

A former first-round pick of the Ravens, Wagner had his best career year just in time to hit the free agent market. According to CBS’s Jason La Confora, Baltimore’s first offer was “rebuffed” by Wagner’s side as he looks to become one of the league’s highest paid right tackles. NFL.com’s Greg Rosenthal estimated that he could land more than $10 million per year. Considering the fact that Wagner ranked ninth in pass blocking by PFF standards and he played a major role in the eighth ranked O-line in pass protection by Football Outsiders, Wagner will be at the top of the Vikings’ (and many other teams’) list for free agent targets.

Mike Remmers, Carolina Panthers

Pro Football Focus rank: 51

Remmers

It wasn’t an easy 2016 for the Panthers’ offensive line, who not only struggled to protect Cam Newton, but was also asked to protect him for a long time as Newton threw downfield as much or more than any quarterback in the league. Remmers was forced to move from the right tackle to left tackle position when Michael Oher went down for the year and he struggled in that spot. While the former Oregon State linemen was never an All-Pro on the right side, he was considered mid-pack by PFF’s scores in his previous two seasons. If the Vikings can’t get their hands on Wagner, Remmers would be a viable (much cheaper) option.

Jordan Mills, Buffalo Bills

Pro Football Focus rank: 64

Mills

Buffalo originally acquired Mills to be a backup for Seantrel Henderson, but health issues for Henderson forced him into a starter’s role where he was unreliable. However, like Remmers, Mills played in an offense that involved many downfield passes and time in the pocket for Tyrod Taylor. That may have hurt Mills’ PFF score as most Bills linemen seem to have great run ratings and poor pass ratings. However, the former Bears draft pick struggled to face off with top competition during his time in Chicago and Buffalo, which makes him more of a decent No. 3 tackle than starter.

Marshall Newhouse, New York Giants

Pro Football Focus rank: 46

Newhouse

With injuries up front, the Giants used Newhouse at both tackle and guard. Against the Vikings, he showed some ability in pass protection but was poor in run blocking. As a backup linemen, he would be an option because of his versatility, but as a starter Newhouse gets exposed for his weaknesses. His solid PFF score in pass protection could have something to do with how quickly Eli Manning got the ball out of his hands last year rather than him actually shutting down top rushers.

Sebastian Vollmer, New England Patriots

Pro Football Focus rank: N/A

One of the most intriguing players on the market, Vollmer missed the entire 2016 season with a hip injury, but had been consistently solid on the right side for the Patriots since being picked 58th overall in 2009. However, at 32 and coming off a season lost to injury, the German native lands under the “high risk” category. He could potentially be good enough as a one-year stopgap or have his 6-foot-8 body give out and leave the Vikings in the same position they were last year.

IMG_0162

Austin Pasztor, Cleveland Browns

Pro Football Focus rank: 33

Pzer

After four seasons of mostly coming off the bench for the Jaguars and Browns, Pasztor won the full-time right tackle position in 2016 and started all 16 games. By all reports, the 26 year old showed progress in pass protection throughout the season and was an exceptional run blocker. For all of their struggles on offense, the Browns were excellent in the run game, averaging the second most yards per carry (4.9) in the NFL last year. The Vikings, who were dead last in Yards Per Carry, have some familiarity with Pasztor, having signed him in April 2012 and cut him just before the 2012 season. He might be the most intriguing name on the right tackle list considering his growth last year.

Menelik Watson, Oakland Raiders

Pro Football Focus rank: 56

There is some “what if…” with Watson because of his draft status and athletic ability. The 6-foot-5, 310-pound tackle is strong, flexible and quick. But there’s a problem: He hasn’t yet shown a feel for playing the position. Watson was a basketball player for two years at Marist College, then transferred to switch to football. He ended up being the anchor of Florida State’s offensive line in 2012. So Watson might be a low-risk, high-reward prospect to sign, but he shouldn’t be relied upon to start at this point in his career.

Other free agent right tackles:

Mike Adams, Chicago Bears

Tom Compton, Atlanta Falcons

Eric Winston, Cincinnati Bengals

Byron Bell, Tennessee Titans

Garrett Reynolds, Detroit Lions

Nick Becton, Chicago Bears

Gosder Cherilus, Tampa Bay Bucs

The post Vikings countdown to free agency: Right tackles appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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