The Minnesota Vikings have 10 days to tidy up.
Estimated to be $15.0 million over the 2022 salary cap, the Vikings need to clear significant cap space by March 16 to become players once the free-agency window opens.
There are many cap maneuvers Minnesota is expected to make in the upcoming week. Once they do, the new regime under first-year general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah will hone in on who they’ll bring in from free agency.
And atop the team’s priority list appears to be finding a veteran guard, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler revealed.
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Vikings ‘in the Market’ for Pro Bowl Guard
On Sunday, March 6, Fowler took inventory of pending free agents attracting “wow numbers” in early free-agency talks.
Among those free agents is San Francisco 49ers guard Laken Tomlinson, who made his first Pro Bowl in 2021 and is garnering interest from several suitors, including the Vikings.
“He’s emerging as a top guard available and could spark a bidding war closer to free agency,” Fowler said of Tomlinson. “The Bengals, Panthers, Vikings, Steelers, Jets and Seahawks are among teams that will be in the guard market.”
Fowler’s report confirms that Minnesota has made fortifying its offensive front a top priority this season, with signs pointing that Kirk Cousins will remain the team’s quarterback for the 2022 season.
While the offensive line has been a bane of the Vikings franchise for the past decade, newly hired head coach Kevin O’Connell sees plenty of potential in the young unit that could be a veteran addition, like Tomlinson, away from putting it all together.
“You know, as I really started to study the roster – the offensive line jumped out at me. The skill sets of both of our guys on the edge. The tackle position is very strong. I think the guard position, there’s a lot of depth there, there’s a lot to like,” O’Connell said, per Vikings.com.
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Tomlinson Could Overtake ‘Depth’ at Guard
The Vikings were confident in 2021 that longtime developmental project Oli Udoh was the answer at guard over several other candidates, including 2021 third-round pick Wyatt Davis.
Udoh proved to be the latest disappointment at the position that rotated Pat Elflein, Dakota Dozier and Dru Samia during the 2020 campaign as the Vikings continue to gamble on depth pieces playing above their potential and becoming a starting-caliber player.
That dice roll may be over in 2022.
A 2015 first-round pick, Tomlinson has developed into one of the best guards in the NFL by playing under Kyle Shanahan’s zone-heavy scheme that has spread throughout the league. Tomlinson has proven to be one of the best run-blockers at his position and, after putting together a career-high 75.2 pass-blocking grade by Pro Football Focus in 2021, elevated himself to Pro Bowl status. PFF projects Tomlinson to garner a $9 million a year deal in free agency, which they called a “steal.”
We project Tomlinson will sign for around $9 million per season for three seasons. That figure would be an absolute steal in comparison to the comp-based projections, which assign a baseline value to Tomlinson around $20 million per season,” PFF’s Kevin Cole wrote. “The sticking point is that Tomlinson has graded much better as a run-blocker than pass protector, which goes against the focus of an increasingly pass-heavy NFL.”
Washington Commanders guard Brandon Scherff, an Iowa native, is another guard who has expressed interest in taking a home-team discount, but Scherff’s price tag may still be much higher than Tomlinson. Scherff is estimated to garner $17 million per year, per PFF.