The Minnesota Vikings‘ offensive line room was gutted on January 3 after starting left tackle Brian O’Neill and second-string center Austin Schlottmann landed on the injured reserve list.
Both linemen were knocked out of the first quarter of the Vikings’ loss to the Green Bay Packers and their absence was felt immediately in the 41-17 loss just two days prior.
The Vikings filled the void by adding another tackle in former Los Angeles Rams left tackle Bobby Evans, who won a Super Bowl with the Rams last season.
“OT Bobby Evans signed with the #Vikings practice squad today, a source tells @theScore,” Jordan Schultz reported. “Evans, 25 won a Super Bowl with the #Rams last season and was released December 31 by LA.”
Evans, 25, is currently on the practice squad, while the Vikings still have one open roster spot available following the signing of Greg Mancz. Evans played in 21 games and made five starts dating back to the 2021 season with the Rams.
The open spot may be left vacant as Minnesota assesses its options for other players coming back from injury, particularly tight end Irv Smith Jr. who was designated to return to practice last week.
In the meantime, the Vikings will roll with Oli Udoh as their starting right tackle with undrafted rookie Vederian Lowe, a left tackle by trade, as the only backup tackle on the active roster.
O’Neill and Schlottmann must remain on the injured reserve list for four games, making the only possibility of their return this season the Super Bowl in February.
Vikings Unlikely to Fill Brian O’Neill’s Shoes
Minnesota may try, but replacing O’Neill is an impossible feat at this point in the season. There are virtually zero free agents who are Pro Bowl-caliber like O’Neill, who is tied for the seventh-highest graded tackle in the league by Pro Football Focus.
O’Neill is the most-veteran starting offensive lineman on the team and was one of the pillars of the group that has been ravaged by injury this season.
There’s been chatter the Vikings could pull former Rams All-Pro tackle Andrew Whitworth out of retirement. His connection to Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell is intriguing, however, that seems more like a pipedream than a reality after the Vikings made their signings on Tuesday.
Vikings ‘Hopeful’ for Garrett Bradbury’s Return for Playoffs
Schlottmann had been filling in for starting center Garrett Bradbury the past four games before he suffered a broken fibula injury on Sunday.
Bradbury, ailing with a lingering back injury, has had a rollercoaster of availability the past months. He was seen taking snaps with Kirk Cousins at practice ahead of Week 15’s miraculous comeback over the Indianapolis Colts before he was in a car accident that night.
Bradbury previously had been “struggling to walk” with the injury that week, according to KSTP’s Darren Wolfson.
Since the accident, Bradbury has not practiced.
Chris Reed, signed in the offseason, took over for Schlottmann against the Packers. He struggled to grasp the cadence at a raucous Lambeau Field, fumbling a pair of snaps early.
Reed recovered well and is the presumptive starter for Sunday’s season finale against the Chicago Bears.