MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings made no secret of the fact that fixing their offensive line was the top priority of their 2017 offseason. The same item topped their to-do list during the 2016 offseason, as well, which might help explain why the Vikings were even more willing to open their checkbook to fix the position this year.
But even after giving Alex Boone a four-year, $26.8 million deal last year and guaranteeing a combined $36.8 million to Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers this spring, the Vikings could remain in the market for help along their offensive front for one good reason: They haven't invested in their future.
A team that prides itself on building from within, often with bold moves to accumulate assets in the top rounds of the draft, has selected just two linemen in the first two rounds of the draft since 2009. Those two are tackles Phil Loadholt (who retired before last season) and Matt Kalil, who left for Carolina this offseason after following his Pro Bowl rookie season with four injury-plagued and inconsistent seasons.
The Vikings needed to spend on linemen this year because the 2017 draft isn't thought to be replete with blockers, but they could still stand to reinforce the group by selecting a lineman or two among their five picks in the first four rounds. As the roster currently stands, T.J. Clemmings might be one injury away from being back in the lineup after struggling mightily during his first two years in the league. As the Vikings undoubtedly learned last year, injuries are an ever-present reality on the offensive line, and they can quickly ruin even the most optimistic plans.
Current OLs (2017 cap number in parentheses): Reiff ($8.5 million), Boone ($6.7 million), Remmers ($5.1 million), Joe Berger ($1.882 million), Clemmings ($746,239), Sirles ($690,000), Reid Fragel ($615,000), Nick Easton ($615,000), Zac Kerin ($615,000), Willie Beavers ($540,000), Austin Shepherd ($540,000), Rashod Hill ($540,000), Marquis Lucas ($465,000).
Player with most to prove in 2017: The Vikings gave Reiff more money than any tackle on the open market, signing him for $58.5 million over the next five years. He'll move back to left tackle after playing on the right side last year in Detroit, and at that price, he'll be counted on to form a solid tandem with Boone on the left side. Sirles could also get the first shot to start at right guard, though the Vikings could also try Berger there if they're comfortable enough with Easton at center. But after starting 10 games last season, Sirles will begin the offseason program with a good chance to assert himself as a full-time player.
Draft need: Even with its paucity of top-end tackles, the draft has a number of intriguing guard prospects that could interest the Vikings with one of their early picks. "I don’t think you’re in that bad of shape [if you need a guard,]" ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said. "The depth isn’t that bad at guard. You can get guys in the second and third rounds that can play in this league. [Western Kentucky's] Forrest Lamp is going to go in the second round, so let’s take him out of it. You’ve got Dion Dawkins from Temple. You’ve got Dan Feeney from Indiana, Dorian Johnson from Pittsburgh. I think Dion Dawkins can be a really good player in this league. Out of that group I just talked about, he’s my highest-rated player.”