Looking at most of the members of this site and the many comments about the upcoming off season, one continuing trend I've noticed is the desire to obtain more talent at the offensive guard position, either through free agency or the draft. Because the position is inherently less noticeable than others such as WR, I have been curious about what our beloved Vikings will have for options. I'm not claiming to have watched tons of film on these guys or anything like that, but I have done some recon work at several other SB Nation sights to both get a feel for who would be a possible upgrade and also who might become available. Anyway, these are the trends I found through their fanposts and comments at each sight.
Arguably the best upcoming free agent guard this year is Buffalo's Andy Levitre (27). From what I have been able to find is that EVERYONE wants Andy much like EVERYONE wanted Carl Nicks last year. The Bills' fan-base seems slightly divided over giving him the large contract, but it seems that they have both the cap room and the desire to keep the dominant and versatile guard on their roster. So while Levitre will either be made unavailable or cost way more than we are likely to spend, there is another Buffalo guard that caught my interest. Chad Rinehart (28) will also be a free agent this year. Many of the postings over at Buffalo Rumblings that are against the resigning of Levitre are because Rinehart stepped in and played very well last year (according to them). They seem to think the guard would be able to step into Levitre's shoes without much of a difference except for the huge difference in salary.
Another of the better guards set to hit free agency is the Charger's Louis Vasquez (26). Although the Charger's line was abysmal this year, their fans over at Bolts from the Blue see Vasquez as one of the lone bright spots of their line. With a line in such bad shape, they see the Chargers as having to resign their one true talent in order to at least have something to build on for next year. Charger fans almost unanimously seem to proclaim that Vasquez will be retained whatever the cost.
The Giants' Kevin Boothe is also set to hit free agency this year. Although no longer a young pup at 30 years old, the Giants' fans seemed happy with his above average run blocking ability. However, it also seemed that Boothe was a culprit of Eli Manning's abysmal stretch. They pointed out that he routinely gave up a ton of pressures up the middle, something the Vikings know too well.
Another guard gearing up for free agency is Brandon Moore of the Jets. Although their offense looked poor most of the year, the 33 year old seemed to still have something left in the tank putting together a decent year and getting some looks from different fans across the nation.
Finally, OG Donald Thomas (27) of the Patriots is set to be a free agent. At times this year the Patriots O-line has been dinged up and the Patriot's fans seem to have been impressed with the back-up guard enough to want him back. However, with two clear starting guards for the Patriots, Thomas could very well be seeking a starting job elsewhere.
In my opinion, it seems like Vasquez and Levitre will both either cost too much for the Vikings or they will be resigned by their current teams before free agency even hits. Additionally, it seems that Boothe would do nothing more than our current guys in stopping the brute strength of linemen such as Suh, Melton, and Raji. Finally, Moore seems to be in a similar spot Hutchinson was in and I don't see the Vikings youth movement taking a chance on an older player hoping that his play does not decline.
In the end if we do choose to try to upgrade our OG's through free agency, it looks to me that our best and most realistic options will be either Rinehart or Thomas. Both are relatively young, have shown flashes of promise (according to their fan-bases), will likely come at a cheaper price, and will most likely look to go somewhere where they can compete for a starting job.
Any additionally comments on these players or other ones I forgot would be greatly appreciated! Like I said, this is what I have read from other fans, not my own assessment of talents.