Minnesota Vikings right tackle Brian O’Neill suffered what head coach Kevin O’Connell called a “significant” leg injury that may leave the team searching for relief in free agency.
O’Neill and center Austin Schlottmann, who has started the past four games in place of Garrett Bradbury, both are being evaluated further after concerning reports following their injuries in the first quarter of Sunday’s loss to the Green Bay Packers.
However, Inside the Vikings’ reporter Will Ragatz took O’Connell’s update on January 2 as a sign both linemen will be out the remainder of the season, leaving Minnesota looking for linemen in free agency.
“Kevin O’Connell indicated that the Vikings will likely be looking to add an offensive lineman or two soon,” Ragatz tweeted. “Brian O’Neill and Austin Schlottmann are presumably out for the season, there’s still no timetable for Garrett Bradbury’s return, and Blake Brandel is on IR.”
Those new additions aren’t likely to be starting caliber talent this late in the season with continuity and chemistry on the offensive line a chief concern. Instead, they’ll likely be depth additions to backup the contingent talent left in the Vikings’ ravaged offensive line room.
How Replacement Vikings Linemen Fared
Chris Reed stood in for Schlottmann on Sunday and struggled initially with understanding the cadence before getting on the same page with Kirk Cousins.
A pair of fumbled snaps and penalties contributed to Reed’s 39.0 Pro Football Focus grade. However, surprisingly, he posted a 74.7 pass-blocking grade and allowed just one pressure on 38 pass-blocking reps.
Oli Udoh filled in for Bradbury and posted the highest grade of any Vikings lineman of 69.8. He posted a 74.0 pass-blocking grade and a serviceable 63.2 run-blocking grade.
Both linemen got help from the remaining starters but with a full week of preparation and another game under their belts could improve entering the postseason.
Familiar Face Could Be on His Way Back to Vikings
The list of free-agent offensive linemen isn’t encouraging at this stage of the season, but the Vikings could find some veteran talent to reinforce the depth chart.
One name, in particular, is veteran swing tackle Rashod Hill, who spent six seasons with the Vikings before signing with the Washington Commanders in July. Hill has made 22 starts in 74 games and proved he could be reliable as a backup before.
Former Chicago Bears and Denver Broncos tackle Bobby Massie would also be a worthy consideration with his 10 years of playing experience. Massie started 121 games at right tackle in his career and is coming off a 2021 season where he posted a 70.0 PFF grade with the Broncos.
Former Cincinnati Bengals center Trey Hopkins remains a free agent after the team released him in March. He is coming off a 51.9 PFF grade in 2021.
In the meantime, the Vikings’ only healthy backup is left tackle Vaderian Lowe along with practice-squad guard Kyle Hinton and center Josh Sokol.
Hinton played five special teams snaps on Sunday against the Packers, while Lowe has played in three games on special teams.
Sokol has yet to play a snap in an NFL regular-season game.