Rumors are flying as free agency is in it’s beginning stages. Will the Vikings sign Michael Johnson? It made a lot more sense before extending Everson Griffen. Does Alterraun Verner have a huge contract, and a purple jersey in his future? Let’s hope so! One area of need that isn’t really being discussed though is the offensive line. Adrian Peterson is a year removed from nearly breaking the single season rushing record, so what’s the big deal? Let’s take a closer look at the guys in the trenches, and examine how the unit can improve in 2014.
We’re going to begin by talking about the anchors of this line. Left tackle is locked down by Matt Kalil. He was the fourth overall selection in the 2012 NFL Draft, and has been all we could hope for. He made the Pro Bowl as a rookie, and has already become a stalwart on the blind side. Most will agree he’s one of the best young LT’s in the league. Center John Sullivan is considered to be one of the top five at his position in the NFL. The two time All-Pro inked a 5-year, 25 million dollar contract extension in 2011. Lastly we come to Phil Loadholdt. He is a mammoth at 6’8 343 pounds. He dominates in the run game, but is well know for false starts and other untimely penalties. Love him or hate him he’s locked up until 2016.
Starting left guard Charlie Johnson is a free agent. If Rick Spielman has a clue what he’s doing he will let this guy walk. Johnson was a disappointment starting at left tackle for the purple in 2012. The former Colt had joined the team via free agency that year, and was kicked inside to guard after Matt Kalil was drafted. It was supposed to be an upgrade at two positions, but unfortunately Charlie Johnson sucks at playing LG too. He is on the wrong side of 30, and is not a part of this teams’ future. Let’s take a look at some possible replacement options.
The two biggest names available in free agency both played guard for the Chiefs last year. They are left guard Geoff Schwartz, and right guard Jon Asamoah. Schwartz coming here would be awesome! The former seventh round pick was actually a Viking in 2012, and is now one of the hottest names on the market at the position. Unfortunately, he is rumored to be headed to either the Jets or Giants. It would be great if we landed him, but I don’t think this is a position we spend big bucks on. Jon Asamoah is a solid, young right guard, but I think the team is happy enough with incumbent starter Brandon Fusco. Also, Asamoah is likely to play for “Gang Green” next season.
Offensive line coach Jeff Davidson returns for a fourth season for the Minnesota Vikings in 2014. Davidson protected Hall of Famer John Elway in 1991 and 1992, so I think he knows what he’s doing. He has coached up Brandon Fusco to become a solid starter in his time here. A player Rick Spielman found in round six of the 2011 draft for all you GM haters. Who hasn’t heard of Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania? It just goes to show that you can find interior lineman in the later rounds of the draft. John Sullivan was also a sixth round pick. Charlie Johnson will be gone, and it’s addition by subtraction just like Chris Cook.
Drafting a blue chip replacement like Xavier Su’ a Filo out of UCLA in round two is one option. I wouldn’t be shocked if they wait until later in the draft though. I expect the team to go QB/Defense in the first two rounds of the 2014 NFL Draft at this juncture. Free agent Ebon Britton could be a decent value in free agency as another option. The Arizona product was drafted in 2009, and has wasted away most of his career in Jacksonville. He spent last season with the rival Bears. He is still young, and could have potential with a good coach like Davidson. I don’t care what we do though as long as it isn’t a contract extension for Charlie Johnson.
With the right moves I expect the Minnesota Vikings offensive line to continue to ranked in the top ten in the NFL moving forward. It doesn’t hurt to have future Hall of Famer Adrian Peterson running through the holes you bust open either. Let’s just hope offensive coordinator Norv Turner can get solid production out of Matt Cassel. I don’t think it will be an issue considering the turds he had to polish in Cleveland last year though. Speaking of Turner, could there be a reunion in Minnesota with Darren Sproles? The two spent time together in San Diego before Sproles joined the hated Saints in 2011. The 30 year old change of pace back could add an awesome element to our offense! That is a subject for another day though Vikings fans.