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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Big contracts, diminished market could push Vikings’ focus to draft to fill O-line spot

By Matthew Coller

The Minnesota Vikings have taken care of their three biggest offseason needs in hiring offensive coordinator John DeFilippo and signing Kirk Cousins and Sheldon Richardson. But there are still a few remaining needs, the most glaring of which is right guard.

Reports have indicated that Joe Berger is leaning toward retirement. NFL Network reported that the Vikings might be interested in bringing Berger back, but at 37 years old, it wouldn’t be wise to assume he could carry a starting load at the same level as last season.

So the Vikings will have to either look to the free agent market or wait until the NFL draft to find a starter.

But there are a few problems with looking to the market. The first being that many of the top free agent linemen have found homes already. Over the last two days, ex-Giants lineman Justin Pugh agreed to a deal with the Arizona Cardinals and Ryan Jensen, interior lineman for the Ravens, joined the Tampa Bay Bucs.

Former Colts Jack Mewhort is the most proven lineman on the market and he has injury concerns.

The other issue: The price tag.

Pugh signed a five-year deal worth more than $45 million. He may be a quality lineman, but he struggled last year and missed a portion of last season and had his lowest career grade by Pro Football Focus.

#Giants free agent OL Justin Pugh is signing with the #AZCardinals, sources tell me and @MikeGarafolo. It’s a 5-year deal worth just over $45M. A huge deal to end the week.

— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 17, 2018

Jensen became the highest paid center in the NFL. Even linemen considered to be mid-pack have landed huge contracts like Kansas City’s Zach Fulton, who nailed down a deal with the Texans worth $7.5 million per year and James Hurst was given a four-year, $17.5 million contract to stay with the Ravens.

Unless the Vikings are interested in a second wave option who is still on the market like Patriots backup tackle LaAdrian Waddle, Dallas guard Jonathan Cooper or Seattle lineman Luke Joeckel, they will have to look to the draft to fill Berger’s shoes.

Not only will a rookie fit their tight budge, but this year’s class features a number of guards who could step into a starting role. UTEP’s Will Hernandez, a massive guard with a nasty edge, impressed at the NFL Combine and could be a first-round pick. Georgia’s Isaiah Wynn, Ohio State’s Billy Price and Iowa’s James Daniels are all considered impressive prospects and could land in the first two rounds.

The other option fo the Vikings is seeking a tackle in the first round and moving Mike Remmers to guard. In Week 17 and both Vikings playoff games, Remmers played on the interior and Rashad Hill started at tackle.

It’s more difficult to find a quality tackle at the bottom of the first than a guard. However, year’s class could have quality players who drop. Texas’s Connor Williams had a strong Combine, but doesn’t have ideal size, Orlando Brown struggled mightily at the Combine, which could drop his stock, Mississippi State’s Martinas Rankin is a versatile player who might be pushed to guard instead of tackle.

The bottom line is: In the draft, the Vikings will have better options than what’s left over in free agency. They will likely need an insurance policy-type veteran in case the draft pick doesn’t adapt quickly. But as of mid-March, O-line is a runaway favorite for one of the Vikings’ top two picks in the draft.

The post Big contracts, diminished market could push Vikings’ focus to draft to fill O-line spot appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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