Minnesota Vikings starting left guard Dakota Dozier finished the 2020 season with the lowest pass-blocking guard in the NFL, per Pro Football Focus.
Yet, Dozier collected the most performance-based earnings of any Vikings player last season. Dozier earned nearly $562,000 in performance-based incentives on his contract, the Pioneer Press’ Chris Tomasson reported.
Minnesota re-signed Dozier after the soon-to-be 30-year-old lineman’s contract was not extended before the offseason.
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Dozier’s New Contract Details
It may seem frustrating that one of the most underperforming starters on the Vikings roster was the biggest breadwinner in 2020.
However, performance pay is often determined by playing time, which Dozier saw aplenty — starting in all 16 games last season.
Last year, Dozier took a veteran minimum $910,000 base salary with a $90,000 signing bonus. Under half of his salary was not guaranteed, making the performance-based pay of over half of his base salary in 2020 a handsome haul for Dozier.
Each team in the league is allotted $8.5 million in performance-based pay bonuses for players largely on more inexpensive deals. This year’s pay will not be awarded until 2024 under an agreement in respect to COVID-19 between the NFL and NFLPA.
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Dozier Is Not a Lock at Left Guard
After a poor 2020 season where Dozer ranked 122 out of 133-graded guards in the league, well-below the average grade for the 64 starting guards in the league, Dozier’s one-year contract he signed this offseason has zero guarantees and no signing bonus, per Star Tribune reporter Ben Goessling.
Several reports leaked throughout the offseason that Minnesota had been in contact with several free-agent linemen, but the signing of Dozier doesn’t necessarily mean he keeps his spot as starting left guard.
If the Vikings invest an early draft pick on an offensive lineman, replacing Dozier could take priority over filling the void at left tackle.
Ezra Cleveland, a 2020 second-round pick, was drafted as a left tackle last season but, instead, emerged as the starting right guard after Pat Elflein and Dru Samia both suffered injuries. Cleveland was serviceable in his rookie season and has been considered a candidate to take over at left tackle.
Coach Mike Zimmer hinted that there could be some moves in store the remainder of the offseason, be it Cleveland moving to left tackle or seeking out a free agent or draftee.
“Well, right now he’s a guard. But all those things can change depending on what happens in free agency and what else happens in the draft. We don’t know what’s going to happen in those places and obviously there’s other positions that we can draft,” Zimmer said, via Vikings.com’s Eric Smith. “I’m sure at some point we’re going to try and address all those things. I think what we’ve done in free agency so far has allowed us to be able to take the best player available, wherever he is.”
Backup swing tackle Rashod Hill was also re-signed in free agency and could compete for the role. If Cleveland asserts himself on Kirk Cousins’ blindside, a new need would be at right guard, where developmental backup Oli Udoh could take over.
These are just internal fixes to Minnesota’s offensive line, which could also be reinforced through free agency and the draft.
While Dozier’s contract does offer the liberty for an easy cut with little money lost, he could be a serviceable backup whose familiarity with the system and offensive line coach Rick Dennison makes his job with the Vikings relatively secure.
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