The Minnesota Vikings are closing in on finding their new starter at right guard.
Jesse Davis, who started 72 of 80 games for the Miami Dolphins over the past five seasons, is visiting the Vikings and has a “strong chance” to sign with the team.
“I can confirm that free-agent offensive lineman Jesse Davis is visiting the # today, and there’s a strong chance that he signs with them,” Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press reported on March 28. “He is being looked at as possibly a starting right guard. Vikings turned to Davis after losing out on Ryan Bates.”
Bates, a restricted free agent with the Buffalo Bills, signed an offer sheet with the Chicago Bears last week, eliminating the Vikings from potentially signing the Bills star, which they offered a contract last week.
“The Vikings did make an offer,” KSTP’s Darren Wolfson reported on March 24 on the SKOR North podcast. “The Vikings wanted Ryan Bates. They made him a nice offer. I don’t necessarily know if it’s the same offer that the Bears made. The Bears certainly have a bit more financial flexibility than the Vikings. But make no mistake about this: the Vikings made Bates an offer. They wanted him badly.”
The Bills signed Bates to a four-year deal on Monday, making Minnesota’s interest in the veteran guard moot.
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A Versatile Veteran
Undrafted in 2015, Davis floated around the NFL before landing with the Miami Dolphins in the 2016 offseason.
At 6-foot-6, 325 pounds, Davis made the 53-man roster in 2017, embarking on a five-year stead on the Dolphins offensive front. He started at left tackle, right tackle, left guard and right guard in his tenure.
Davis hasn’t been particularly effective at any of the positions, but he’s shown a streak of good health and the ability to adapt to the needs of his team. Starting 16 games at right guard in 2018, Davis posted a 59.2 Pro Football Focus (PFF) offensive grade.
However, he’s been in the air amid coaching changes galore in Miami. He’s had five different offensive line coaches in five years with the Dolphins.
But Davis, who will turn 31 this year, may be too old to be reinvented by a more stable foundation. He can, however, be guided by the Vikings, who are looking at him as a guard prospect and a potential depth add to the offensive line room.
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Vikings Are a Guard Away From Offensive Line Improvements
The Vikings offensive line has taken steps forward in recent years after hitting on left tackle Christian Darrisaw (2021, No. 23 overall) and left guard Ezra Cleveland (2020, No. 58 overall) in the past two drafts.
But the Vikings still need help in the offensive interior after a revolving cast at guard over the past three seasons. Minnesota drafted Wyatt Davis in the third round last season, but the Ohio State product failed to notch any snaps after he was poised to take over as the team’s starting right guard.
ESPN’s Courtney Cronin reported that she heard at the 2022 combine that Davis was a “Rick Spielman special,” meaning W. Davis was solely appraised as a worthwhile gamble by the general manager.
“That was a Rick Spielman special, where here didn’t listen to anyone else in the room on Wyatt Davis. That he went after his guy,” Cronin said on the Purple Insider podcast. “Two scouts I talked to in the Minnesota Vikings organization, said that this guy wasn’t even a backup grade for them. Okay? That is what the reality of that situation was.”
The 18th overall pick in the 2019 draft, center Garrett Bradbury has struggled, but the guards haven’t helped him to his left and right over the majority of his career.
Cleveland’s emergence and another competent guard, potentially in J. Davis, could be what Bradbury needs to reach his potential in 2022.
If that happens, Minnesota could have a unit that digs itself out of the bottom 10 units in the league — a reputation they’ve held over the past four seasons.
The last time the Vikings offensive line was average was in 2017, when Case Keenum led the Vikings to the NFC Championship game.