The Vikings are rapidly running out of veteran guard options.
Forrest Lamp, who was reportedly considering Minnesota in free agency last month, signed with the Buffalo Bills on Wednesday. Lamp is a former second-round pick of the Chargers who has dealt with significant injury issues during his NFL career but would've been a low-cost addition with upside.
As a reminder, the Vikings' current guards are Ezra Cleveland, Mason Cole, Dakota Dozier, Dru Samia, Kyle Hinton, and Zack Bailey. Outside of Cleveland, not a single member of that group is a proven, above-average starting option, and the 2020 second-round pick from Boise State might be in line to move to left tackle after the release of Riley Reiff this offseason.
In that context, it's difficult to understand why the Vikings' only moves to address their offensive line this offseason have been trading for Cole and re-signing Dozier and Rashod Hill. It was a weakness that held Kirk Cousins and the offense back last season, and as things stand right now, it's likely going to be even worse in 2021.
Luckily, the offseason is far from over. The draft is three weeks away, and many analysts expect Minnesota to add an OL prospect like Rashawn Slater, Alijah Vera-Tucker, Christian Darrisaw, or Samuel Cosmi in the first round. That would certainly help things, but it's also worth noting that even first round linemen can struggle as rookies. If the Vikings take a defensive end or another position in round one, whichever OL they draft on Day 2 won't be a sure thing to be ready to play right away.
Given that the Vikings still have over $7 million in cap space, with another $8 million to clear up on June 2nd when Kyle Rudolph's contract comes off the books, it's puzzling to see them sit and watch as the free agent OL market dries up.
The Bills and GM Brandon Beane have made a habit of adding a bunch of low-cost players on the interior of their offensive line and seeing what works. It's been an effective strategy for them, and it makes you wonder why Rick Spielman and the Vikings don't take the same approach. Had they added more competition at guard last offseason, they wouldn't have been forced to start Dozier all year or open the season by playing Pat Elflein and Samia at the other guard spot.
Lamp was one of the top options when I listed ten available free agent guards last week, but there are still some capable players out there. Trai Turner, Nick Easton, Lane Taylor, and Michael Schofield are all guys who could start for the Vikings. There are also a bunch of 32 or 33-year olds who are past their primes but might still have something left in the tank.
At this point, I wonder if the Vikings will just wait and see what happens in the draft before signing any additional free agents.
That will allow them to have a better view of their offensive line and their roster as a whole, but they'd also be running the risk of missing out on more players in the coming weeks. There are at least six good free agent tackles still available (Eric Fisher, Mitchell Schwartz, Alejandro Villanueva, Russell Okung, Rick Wagner, Dennis Kelly), but they may not still be out there after the draft. If they are, and the Vikings didn't land a premium tackle in the draft, they might have more leverage to ask Minnesota for more money.
The Vikings still need at least two decent-to-starting-caliber linemen for me to be confident in that unit. Realistically, they should try to add three or more for depth and competition purposes. Whether they add those players in the draft or free agency isn't too important, but going into the season without seriously addressing the offensive line would be a highly disappointing outcome.
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