The Vikings' most glaring and blatant need this offseason is at the guard position.
Most of their other pressing needs — including defensive tackle, defensive end, No. 3 wide receiver, and cornerback — have at least a player or two on the roster who could theoretically hold up at that spot. The two holes where the Vikings have basically no in-house replacement candidate are at safety and left guard. And if Riley Reiff becomes a cap casualty and Ezra Cleveland moves to left tackle, which is still a possibility, there would be a massive hole at right guard, too.
Outside of Cleveland, these are the guards on the Vikings' roster right now: Kyle Hinton, Dru Samia, and Zack Bailey. Both Dakota Dozier and Brett Jones are free agents who aren't realistic candidates for the job. Rick Spielman and company desperately need to go outside of the organization to find a guard, and they should probably do so in free agency so they aren't forced to reach for an interior offensive lineman early in the draft.
Here's the good news: there are going to be a lot of options available. The free agent guard class, which I'll break down in full later this week, already included Brandon Scherff, Joe Thuney, Lane Taylor, Austin Blythe, and Brian Winters, among many others. In recent weeks, a number of players have been released by their teams and added to that list. Gabe Jackson of the Raiders is a big one, and other names include Richie Incognito, Nick Easton, and Senio Kelemete. Texans center Nick Martin was also released and could play guard.
And it sounds like that list is only going to keep growing. Andrew Norwell, Kevin Zeitler, and Trai Turner are all starting guards who are reportedly available for trades, with the expectation that they'll be released if no deals are made.
As Bleacher Report's Brent Sobleski wrote in a column, the lowered 2021 salary cap and the vast number of available offensive linemen could result in those players commanding less money than expected. This could turn into a "flooded class" of guards in particular, according to Sobleski.
That's great news for the Vikings, who need a guard but aren't going to have a ton of money to spend. I'd be surprised if they sprung for a player like Scherff or Thuney, but they could make a massive upgrade from Dozier by grabbing someone from the second tier of available interior linemen. Toss in an early draft pick or two on the offensive line and the Vikings might not be far off from seeing a major improvement in that unit in 2021.
Given all of the available options and the importance of the O-line, Spielman absolutely cannot neglect adding a guard in free agency this year. The Vikings can't be satisfied with mediocrity like they were last year when they allowed Dozier to start all year. They just can't.
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