A month and a half ago, the Vikings expressed interest in right tackle Ryan Schraeder, who had just been released from the Atlanta Falcons. The Houston Texans also had interest, but so far Schraeder remains a free agent.
Perhaps the reason Schraeder has not been signed is that he is designated for a June 1st release, which allows the Falcons to spread his dead cap hit into next year. Given that, he may not be able to sign with anybody else until that time.
But the question remains - are the Vikings still interested in him post-draft?
The Vikings drafted likely starters at center and guard, but not tackle - presumably because they’re comfortable with Brian O’Neill and Riley Reiff. But then why were they interested in Schraeder, who played right tackle for the Falcons, in the first place?
There is one potential explanation.
Brian O’Neill played left tackle in college, and has all the athletic and size traits to play left tackle in the NFL. He didn’t allow a sack in his rookie year, according to PFF, and had a higher pass blocking efficiency than Reiff. There has been speculation since O’Neill was drafted that at some point O’Neill will replace Reiff at left tackle. Mike Zimmer also mentioned prior to the draft that the Vikings had entertained the idea of moving Reiff to left guard. Given the acquisition of Dru Samia, that may no longer be in the Vikings plans, but it may also signal that the Vikings aren’t 100% satisfied with Reiff at left tackle.
Ryan Schraeder, 30, is the same age as Reiff and had declined in performance since Steve Sarkisian took over as offensive coordinator for the Falcons from Kyle Shanahan in 2017.
Kyle Shanahan was Gary Kubiak’s offensive coordinator when he was head coach in Houston, and runs a similar offense- including an outside zone run scheme. Schraeder graded very well in both pass protection and especially run blocking - with a near-elite 88.9 run blocking grade - under Shanahan in 2016. His overall PFF grades in 2015 and 2016 were 79.3 and 83.4 respectively.
The point here is that Schraeder may be a better fit for Kubiak’s offense than Riley Reiff. He also may be cheaper from a salary cap perspective.
Schraeder is coming off a contract that averaged $6.3 million a year. Reiff, by contrast, has a $11.7 million cap hit this year, which increases to $13.2 million next year, and nearly $14 million in 2021. A post June 1st release or trade of Reiff would free up $9.5 million in cap space for the Vikings this year, including a $2.2 million dead cap hit. There would be an additional $4.4 million dead cap hit next year.
So, if the Vikings traded or released Reiff and acquired Schraeder for $6 million a year (his previous average) for 2-3 years, they would save about $3.5 million in cap space this year and $2.8 million next year, and $8 million in 2021.
That’s not huge, but it is substantial for a team that’s up against the salary cap limit for the foreseeable future.
Of course the primary issue isn’t salary cap, but whether the Vikings would be better served with Schraeder at right tackle and O’Neill at left tackle, rather than the status quo.
One can make the argument that O’Neill, as the better pass protector should move to the blind side, while Schraeder is a good scheme fit that could do well at right tackle.
And if that saves some salary cap dollars in the process, which helps the Vikings to extend a defensive back like Anthony Harris, MacKensie Alexander or Trae Waynes - all on the last year of their contracts - so much the better.
There hasn’t been any news or update on Ryan Schraeder or the Vikings interest since March, so we’ll have to wait and see what happens.
What do you think of swapping Riley Reiff for Ryan Schraeder and moving Brian O’Neill to left tackle?
This poll is closed
Nah - too much messing around
Yes - could be a positive for both performance and salary cap