Vikings position outlook: Guards/centers

MINNEAPOLIS -- We're continuing on with our position-by-position outlook at the Minnesota Vikings' roster. Today: the guards/centers.


2014 free agents: Charlie Johnson, Joe Berger.

The good: The Vikings have a stable offensive line, even if the group as a whole regressed from the way it played in 2012. Center John Sullivan had a rough start to the season, but recovered to perform well in the second half, and guard Brandon Fusco seemed to show signs of development at times, particularly as a run blocker. Fusco is the kind of road grader the Vikings need at guard, to open holes for Adrian Peterson, and the running back gained 796 of his 1,266 yards going up the middle or running behind Fusco's right guard spot, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

The bad: Left guard Charlie Johnson struggled in his second year as a starter, getting beat on a number of blitzes and failing to open holes for Peterson. Pro Football Focus ranked him the worst guard in the NFC North, and Johnson gave up four sacks after allowing just one in 2012. He is scheduled to hit free agency just before he turns 30 in May, and depending on how they feel about their depth, the Vikings might look for a new starter at left guard.

The money (2014 salary-cap numbers): Sullivan ($4.75 million), Fusco ($668,556), Jeff Baca ($519,150). The Vikings will have to decide whether or not to bring back Berger, who carried just a $620,000 cap figure last season and proved to be a reliable backup at both guard and center. They wanted to see Baca grab hold of the swing spot on the interior line, but the rookie never seemed to grasp it.

Draft priority: Moderate. Though they probably won't take one in the first couple rounds, it wouldn't be surprising at all to see the Vikings use a mid-round pick on a guard. They could be in need of depth at the position, and if they decide to move on from Johnson, they might look for a rookie they can plug in. With two picks in the third round, the Vikings could close Day 2 of the draft by adding a guard.