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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Vikings countdown to free agency: The centers

By Matthew Coller

Wis

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, the left tackles, the right tackles, the guards and now the centers…

Maybe, maybe not

Technically speaking, the Minnesota Vikings have two centers on the roster already, which would take them out of the conversation for adding another, but there is a possibility the Vikings could decide to move Joe Berger to guard permanently. Even if Berger stays put in the middle, a number of free agent centers have proven to be flexible interior offensive linemen who can fill in at center or either of the two guard spots. Considering the Vikings’ struggles when they had injuries last season, a proven second-stringer might prove to be valuable.

Stefen Wisniewski, Philadelphia Eagles

Pro Football Focus rank: 39th (of 72 guards)

After starting 77 games between Oakland and Jacksonville over the first five years of his career, Wisniewski found himself coming off the bench to start the 2016 season. Instead of playing his natural center position, he was given six starts at guard. Wisniewski showed frustration early in the season over being relegated to a backup role, which may hint that he won’t be sticking with the Eagles. If other teams aren’t willing to commit to giving the 27-year-old linemen a starting job, the Vikings might be able to get a bargain from a player who has been consistently solid during his six years in the NFL. The drawback, however, is that Wisniewski is not one of the bigger center/guards out there – that may be an aim of the Vikings front office as they look to improve their rushing attack.

JC Tretter, Green Bay Packers

Pro Football Focus rank: 9th of 38 centers

Tretter

Tretter received his first chance to start regularly after two years as a backup, but an injury cut his season to only seven games. He earned the highest run grade of any Packers offensive linemen and the eighth best among centers. That will be attractive to the Vikings. If there is one concern, it would be that Tretter simply doesn’t have a lot of experience. The former fourth-round pick out of Cornell has only started 10 games. Like many other centers, his ability to fill in at guard is favorable, as would be his likely price.

AQ Shipley, Arizona Cardinals

Pro Football Focus rank: 14th

Shipley

For the first time in his career, the 5-foot-11, 290-pound linemen got a chance to start all 16 games. In the past, Shipley had been somewhat of a utility player, being used as a guard, blocking tight end and fullback at times. It says something that Bruce Arians brought Shipley along from Indianapolis to Arizona. His versatility will be attractive, but at age 30 and with only one year as a center, teams may not be lining up to make him their starter, despite his mid-pack PFF grade.

Ryan Groy, Buffalo Bills

Pro Football Focus rank: 23rd

When Buffalo’s popular center Eric Wood went down with a season-ending injury, the former Wisconsin Badger stepped into a starting role for the final seven games of the season. As a career backup who had been on four teams in three years, 539 snaps was by far the most he’d seen in an NFL season. While Groy might not have earned himself a starting job next season, he did prove that he can handle regular playing time when called upon. At 26, there might also be some potential still remaining for the 320-pounder.

Joe Hawley, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Pro Football Focus rank: 26th

While Hawley has a good amount of experience, he hasn’t had much success. Whether it was in Atlanta or Tampa Bay, the 28 year old has been consistently ranked toward the bottom of the league, especially in run blocking. There were few teams that competed with the Vikings for the honor of being the NFL’s worst running game, but the Bucs were right in the conversation at 3.6 Yards Per Carry. Hawley shouldn’t be considered for any type of regular position.

Brian Schwenke, Tennessee Titans

Pro Football Focus rank: N/A

The 25-year-old linemen spent 2016 as a backup after starting 25 games over his first three years in the NFL. As a starter, he was one of the worst centers in the NFL and last year he struggled as a backup guard, playing in just three contests.

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

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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