It appears the Vikings may have a plan in place for the offensive line this season.
Here it is:
Right Tackle - Brian O’Neill
Right Guard - Ezra Cleveland
Center - Garrett Bradbury
Left Guard - Oli Udoh
Left Tackle - Orlando Brown Jr. / Draft Pick
Swing Tackle - Rashod Hill
The first three are no surprise, as they’re the incumbents. It would seem, however, there is no intent to move either O’Neill or Cleveland to left tackle. That could remain a plan b if a capable left tackle cannot be acquired, but I suspect the intent is to keep both O’Neill and Cleveland in their current spots. O’Neill is the best performing OL on the roster at RT, and Cleveland had the 4th highest overall PFF grade among rookie guards last season, and showed improvement as the season progressed. Bradbury was more or less a given.
Chad Graff of The Athletic reported that Oli Udoh converted to guard part of last season (right guard from what I understand), and could make the switch permanent to compete for starting left guard. He added that Udoh said, “whatever they need me to play, I’m willing to play.” I wrote here a year ago that Udoh could be a candidate for left guard, in the mold of Kelechi Osemele, who excelled at left guard in several systems, including Kubiak’s in Baltimore. Apparently they’re getting around to taking my advice (LOL).
It’s also been reported that the Vikings are in trade talks to acquire Orlando Brown Jr. at left tackle. No deal has been done, and would likely require both a trade deal with the Ravens for Brown, and a deal with Brown on a contract extension. But should those deals be completed, it would give the Vikings a lot of flexibility with their first round pick at the end of April. If the Vikings are unable to secure Brown’s services, it would seem more likely that a left tackle would be targeted with their first round pick.
The Vikings also extended swing tackle Rashod Hill for another season at just over $1 million cap hit, and it would seem likely he would continue in that role.
Beyond that, barring a return of Brett Jones, which seems more unlikely this year, Kyle Hinton could become the backup center. Dru Samia and Zach Bailey are on the roster at guard, but I suspect the Vikings will use a relatively high draft pick to secure another interior lineman, perhaps one of the guys I profiled the other day. Quinn Meinerz could compete with Udoh at left guard and also has the added benefit of being able to play center as well. Ben Cleveland isn’t likely to be a candidate to play center, but could otherwise compete for a guard spot too. Depending on where they fall in the draft, and the draft picks the Vikings have left (if they use some to acquire Brown), they could potentially draft both of them. They could also look at drafting Alijah Vera-Tucker with their first pick, even if they acquire Orlando Brown Jr..
Bottom line, the Vikings look to be making moves and contingency plans so they’re not locked in to needing to draft a starter early in the draft at a given position or they’re in trouble. Securing Orlando Brown Jr. could really open up the Vikings draft to truly take the best man available with their first pick, or move back in the first round and finagle a 2nd round pick. I would imagine defensive end, safety, and perhaps linebacker would be high on the list for the Vikings, beyond offensive line.
Would you expect an offensive line of (from left to right) Orlando Brown Jr., Oli Udoh, Garrett Bradbury, Ezra Cleveland, and Brian O’Neill to be...
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A real problem