(Article originally published in 12 local newspapers. Reference: GS Publishing)
The Minnesota Vikings check in to training camp in less than 1 month.
Since adding Sheldon Richardson to the roster, the Vikings have been relatively quiet. While their roster looks solid overall, they have nearly $14M in cap space available which they can use to bring in an edge player, wide receiver, or another offensive lineman. The Vikings are currently in a position to pick up a quality player that becomes available from any team now until the start of the season. As we get closer to the final 53-man rosters, players that get cut on one team can be of a much greater need on another.
In addition to the cap space the Vikings currently have, they can still increase that number. There have been reports that Harrison Smith and the Vikings may reach a contract extension prior to the start of the season. If they can get that done, that can free up even more cap space for the Vikings to add some talent to their 2021 roster.
This week, we continue our roster breakdown with the offensive line. I will talk about who I project at each spot right now.
Christian Darrisaw (Left Tackle) – The Vikings were aggressive in addressing the offensive line in the draft this year. With the 23rd overall pick, they selected Darrisaw out of Virginia Tech. He is an exceptionally large and powerful tackle. He is ready to start from the get-go and I expect him to be the starting left tackle for the Vikings for many years to come.
He is filling a void left by Riley Reiff who the Vikings cut to create cap space. Reiff had a rather good year last season, so the Vikings need production from Darrisaw right away. The expectations are high for the young tackle.
Ezra Cleveland (Left Guard) – Last season the Vikings took Ezra Cleveland in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Cleveland didn’t start right away, but when he got his chance, he proved to be a solid choice.
He is a versatile lineman. The original thought was that he was going to replace Reiff at left tackle. Now with Darrisaw on the roster, Cleveland has settled into the left guard spot. This is scary and exciting at the same time. The left side will have two very young players in Darrisaw and Cleveland, and while there will be some growing pains early in the season, they could be a very strong duo in time.
Garrett Bradbury (Center) – The center position has had a little bouncing around in recent history. The Vikings feel like Bradbury has an opportunity to lock down that spot. He has shown that he can provide consistent play.
He has not lived up to the 1st round hype, but he is still young. I struggle completely judging him with so much turnover on the offensive line. This is a make or break it year for Bradbury.
Dakota Dozier (Right Guard) – This isn’t who I want to start at right guard but rather who I think will open the season at the position for the Vikings. Dozier simply was not good last season. This is a position where I hope someone else can take this spot. Based on what I have seen from camps, it looks like Dozier will get the early nod at right guard.
Brian O’Neill (Right Tackle) – O’Neill is an example of a pleasant surprise. The Vikings grabbed him in the second round in 2018 and he has become one of the best right tackles in the NFL. He is now the best offensive lineman on the Vikings and the one player who doesn’t have any cause for concern along the o-line. If you would have told me that would be the case in 2018, I would have laughed.