Somewhat lost in the speculation about which QB free agent the Vikings may sign, are a host of other free agents that could bolster the Vikings starting roster. Let’s take a look at some that could provide immediate value along the offensive line, and who the Vikings could have a reasonable shot of signing, should they decided to pursue them.
Andrew Norwell - Left Guard
Norwell is the top guard available in free agency- a first team All-Pro last year that the Panthers can’t afford to keep. He’s 26, coming off his rookie year, and has been a stud at left guard since entering the NFL from Ohio State. Obviously he wouldn’t come cheap- $13 million/year looks to be the price tag for the All-Pro guard.
The rumor is that the Giants, and former Panthers GM Dave Gettleman, are strong favorites to land the top offensive line prize in free agency this year. One article called it a ‘done deal’ despite of course that we’re still in the no tampering period and no deals can be discussed. In any event, for similar money, the Vikings offer a much better chance to win than the Giants, who are trying to right the ship after the worst year in franchise history.
Justin Pugh - Left Guard
Pugh, formerly with the Giants, would be a Plan B option if they wanted to bring in a left guard but couldn’t get Norwell. Pugh has played very well at the position until last year, when a back injury cut short his season. He’s also missed time with a sprained MCL injury. If his injuries check out, his price tag looks to be about half of what Norwell’s is, and he would be an instant upgrade if he could return to form. Pugh is 27 and coming off his rookie deal.
Josh Sitton - Guard/Tackle
Sitton, who’s played both guard spots, formerly of the Packers and now Bears, could be an intriguing option for the Vikings. But rather than guard, he could be the best option for the Vikings at right tackle, where he played in college. The All-Pro has the size and length to play out there, and could be an upgrade over the available options for the Vikings. His experience playing both guard spots, along with right tackle (he even filled in at left tackle once for the Packers against the Vikings), could give him some added value for the Vikings. Sitton is 31, and has missed games here and there with injuries, but for the most part has remained healthy throughout his career. The Vikings could mix and match Sitton and Remmers to see where they fit best.
Sitton has continued to play well since he left Green Bay, but there seems to be something about him that teams are willing to let him go. The Packers did so surprisingly- rumor was he wasn’t getting along or a team player or something- and now the Bears have declined an $8 million option to keep him. Who knows. Supposedly the Bears are looking to save that cap space, get younger along the OL, and probably draft a guard. Makes sense.
Chris Hubbard - Right Tackle
The former Steeler and backup RT, Hubbard played well as a replacement for Marcus Gilbert when he was out with injury. He’s 26 and was a UDFA, now coming off his first contract. He’d likely be a cheaper option than any of the above, but obviously not as proven with only a handful of starts. Here are some clips on him against the Ravens.
I suspect this last option is the most likely to happen, and could be an upgrade over Rashod Hill at RT, if the Vikings decide to keep Mike Remmers inside at guard- which makes some sense given his lack of length and athleticism to play outside.
Joe Berger - Right Guard
Let’s not forget about Joe Berger, who apparently has decided to play another year, but will test the free agency market. Berger has been the Vikings best offensive linemen for a few years now, and even at his age - he’ll be 36 this year - he’s played at a relatively high level, even though last year was not his best. I suspect if the Vikings can come close to what some other team may offer him, he’ll stay in Minnesota.
Other Offensive Line Roster Considerations
In addition to picking up a couple of the guys above in free agency - most likely the last two but we can hope for one of the others- the Vikings are also likely to target OL early in the draft.
My guess is that Mike Remmers will not be in Minnesota the full length of his contract, and I suspect that 2018 may be something of a prove-it year for him- probably at guard. His contract is structured so the Vikings could release him in 2019 without a big dead cap hit, and save over $5 million in cap space in the process.
The Vikings have also put off making a decision on making a tender offer on Nick Easton, who is set to be a restricted free agent. It would be surprising if the Vikings didn’t do so, which looks to cost them around $2 million, but if they are looking to go another way in free agency, that could be the reason. They have until March 14th to make a tender offer, or lose the right of first refusal that goes with a restricted free agent.
Joe Berger, if the Vikings opted to re-sign him, would probably be a one-year deal. If the Vikings are undecided about Easton, it could be that they re-sign Berger as at least a backup interior lineman, while also picking up another free agent guard and/or tackle as well.
Beyond free agent signings, the Vikings could spend a top draft pick on an offensive lineman such as Will Hernandez, Isaiah Wynn, or Billy Price - in addition to Sitton or Pugh and Hubbard let’s say- and they could be in pretty good shape moving forward.
Of course if the Vikings shoot their wad on Kirk Cousins, they’ll not have the salary cap to be as aggressive in free agency elsewhere, given the high-priced extensions coming to core players like Diggs, Barr, Kendricks, Waynes, and Hunter- so there’s that too.
But I could see the Vikings signing as many as three free agent offensive linemen- Berger and two others- and spending a top draft pick on most likely an interior lineman like Billy Price or Isaiah Wynn, while continuing to develop guys like Danny Isidora, Aviante Collins, and Rashod Hill.