If you’ve been keeping up with events at the NFL Combine, you may have seen this nugget yesterday:
Notes from Indy: Early signs are Anthony Harris will be too rich for #Vikings. If Riley Reiff stays, Zimmer says he's again open to a discussion about moving him to left guard. https://t.co/lKDVu6zS3S— Andrew Krammer (@Andrew_Krammer) February 27, 2020
No, not the Anthony Harris bit. We talked about that already. Yes, yes...once again, the Vikings are mulling moving LT Riley Reiff inside to LG.
Of course they are.
Because, you know, in the never-ending rebuild that is the offensive line of the Minnesota Vikings, moving a guy that’s pretty decent at one position to a spot he’s never played at the professional level is a fantastic idea, and has worked out so well here in recent years.
HOWEVER, IT’S POTENTIALLY EVEN BETTER! If the Vikings move Reiff inside, another rumor floating out there is taking RT Brian O’Neill and moving him to LT. To replace O’Neill at RT, they’ll put...someone.
Let’s just look at all of this for a minute, and marvel.
The Vikings have been switching players around the line for the better part of five years now, and the only one that seemed to work out was moving Joe Berger from guard to center back in 2016. Everything else they did that year was a disaster, but a lot of that was due to injuries on a level never before seen with one position group, so I can overlook a couple of those moves.
In 2017, the Vikes decided to fix their offensive line, and they had dramatic results. In free agency, they signed two players to play tackle, Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers, and drafted center Pat Elflein, who became the day one starter. The Vikings went from 8-8 to 13-3, and the revamped offensive line played a large part in that turnaround.
However, come playoff time the line was beset with injuries, and in an effort to get their five best overall linemen on the field, Minnesota kicked RT Mike Remmers inside to LG in place of the injured Jeremiah Sirles. At the time, I was fine with it. It was a temporary move during the playoffs, and getting your five best linemen on the field in that situation made sense.
In 2018, the Vikings decided to make the Remmers move inside permanent, but put him at RG. So, after solving the RT issue with...Remmers...a position that had been a problem since Phil Loadholt was hurt in 2014, the Vikings fixed it by creating TWO problems on the line by moving Remmers inside and finding a backfill to Remmers. Rashod Hill was the RT for the first several games, and both guys struggled. When Hill was hurt, the Vikings had to plug in rookie Brian O’Neill, a player we were told would take at least one season to develop before he was ready to start. Remmers was a bust as a guard, and after the 2018 season, he got his walking papers. There was a silver lining in the play of O’Neill, who has quickly become a fixture at RT on the o-line in his two years here.
Right tackle was fixed again, but the Vikes essentially went through three guys to fix it when they didn’t have to, and in the process created a hole at RG.
After Elflein struggled in 2018 as the starting center, the Vikings essentially made three moves to ‘fix’ the line...again. In free agency, they actually signed a guard to play guard in Josh Kline, and with O’Neill they solidified the right side of the line, for the most part. The Vikes drafted C Garrett Bradbury in the first round, and moved Elflein to LG. In theory, this move wasn’t a bad one when compared to the Remmers move to guard. Elflein had excelled at both guard and center while in college, and it seemed like he had a good chance to succeed.
But Elflein struggled, so here we are, once again, talking about Reiff to LG rumors for a second consecutive offseason.
Moving Reiff inside makes no sense to me. Reiff has been a decent LT in his three years in Minnesota, and moving him inside creates two holes on the line, essentially. If you believe the other rumor that the Vikings would move O’Neill to LT, you create potential chaos.
“But Ted,” you’re quick to point out, “moving Remmers gave us O’Neill. And that’s a good thing.”
Yes, but to me it’s apparent that with all this recent shuffling, that is the exception, not the rule. The only reason the Vikings played O’Neill is because they essentially had to, and they were lucky that he worked out. The flip side to O’Neill was Remmers struggling all year in a position he had never played. To correct it, they had to dip into free agency to fix a problem of their own making.
There are two knowns in Reiff and O’Neill, and I’m a big proponent of the saying ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.’ The two tackle positions aren’t broke, so don’t fix an issue elsewhere by moving players around on the line. Reiff and O’Neill ranked 34 and 37 in PFF’s overall rankings, and that means you have two NFL-caliber starting tackles.
Instead of taking a good RT and moving him to LT, where we don’t know how he’ll play, and a good LT and moving him to LG, where we don’t know how he’ll play, either, AND finding a good RT to replace a ...wait for it...good RT...how about instead they just find a LG? Maybe he’s already on the roster in the form of Dru Samia, a guy they project to start at some point, anyway. Maybe they can dip into free agency and find another Josh Kline, a player they signed to fix a problem last year, and lo and behold, they did, with minimal disruption on the line elsewhere.