E Point Perfect

If Vikings OL Improves, It’ll Be at a Discount.


If Vikings OL Improves, It'll Be at a Discount
Jun 8, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. © Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

The 2022 Minnesota Vikings are near the top of the NFL for spending on the quarterback and running back positions. To offset the lofty paychecks afforded to Kirk Cousins and Dalvin Cook, the Vikings rank near the bottom of the league for spending on defensive backs.

And the cutbacks don’t stop in the defensive secondary. Minnesota invests a relatively low sum of cash on the offensive line, at least compared to other teams.

Indeed, the Vikings rank fifth in fewest dollars allocated to an offensive line for 2022. Only one man on Minnesota’s offensive line rakes in the dough, and that’s Pro Bowl right tackle, Brian O’Neill. Aside from O’Neill, the starters — or men who could be starters as the OL grouping is not solidified — aren’t paid all that handsomely. Every offensive lineman not named O’Neill who could start in 2022 carries a cap hit of less than $5 million — Christian Darrisaw, Ezra Cleveland, Garrett Bradbury, Jesse Davis, Ed Ingram, and Chris Reed.

Whether this is a “good” thing for the Vikings is to be determined. Why? Well, the pass-protection acumen of the team’s offensive line has floundered for a long time. In the last eight years, the Vikings pass-blocking was only near average once — the 2017 season when Minnesota nearly hosted a home Super Bowl.

Vikings OL Pass Protection,
Ranking from PFF,
Since 2014:

2014 = 23rd
2015 = 28th
2016 = 30th
2017 = 17th
2018 = 27th
2019 = 27th
2020 = 29th
2021 = 27th

Dec 5, 2021; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Brian O’Neill. Mandatory Credit: David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports

The Vikings plan with the offensive line has not worked — at all — for about a decade. Thankfully, the team now has a new general manager and head coach to attempt a fix, so perhaps spending a small lump of cash on the offensive trenches is simply efficient. But no reasonable Vikings fan will believe until it happens.

Minnesota has the edges of the offensive line all sewed up. O’Neill and Darrisaw are a formidable OT twosome and are not the cause of the Vikings pass-protection doldrums. The center and right guard positions, on the other hand, keep Vikings enthusiasts up at night.

First-round draft stock was used on Bradbury in 2019, and his pass-blocking is porous. He’ll now fight for a job this summer to remain the Vikings starting center. At right guard, the battle will involve Jesse Davis from the Miami Dolphins, the rookie Ed Ingram, Chris Reed from the Indianapolis Colts, and perhaps, as a longshot, Wyatt Davis from the 2021 NFL Draft.

Oct 31, 2021; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Miami Dolphins guard Jesse Davis. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

If Minnesota can fill those two spots with competent players, the pass-protection nightmare will cease, and the frugal nature of the offensive-line spending will be vindicated.

Overall, one thing is certain. The Vikings are emphatically not “throwing money at the problem.” Kwesi Adofo-Mensah is attempting to remedy the offensive trenches on a teensy budget compared to the rest of the NFL.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).


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