The release of Charlie Johnson not only frees up $2.5 million in cap space, it also leaves a job opening at left guard. The Vikings have second-year player David Yankey waiting in the wings but it’s almost certain that they will also add a veteran free agent at the position at least as a backup.
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What are we looking at in terms of the free agent market at left guard? There are some options here. It seems highly unlikely that the Vikings would pursue a top name like Orlando Franklin or Mike Iupati, but there are some players farther down the list who could be intriguing.
1. Clint Boling
A 2011 fourth-round pick by the Bengals, Boling is a good run blocking guard with some versatility to his game. He’s 26 and just coming off his first contract which puts him right in Rick Spielman’s wheelhouse. This guy is probably the best player on the free agent board after the bigger names at the tippy-top. Not only would he give you an immediate solution at left guard, he might end up staying there for seven years.
2. Mike Pollak
Sticking with the Bengals…Mike Pollak is a little older than Clint Boling at 30 but he’s proven his value as a versatile interior lineman. This guy is basically Joe Berger minus about three years. Scoff at that if you will, but think of where the Vikings would have been last year after Brandon Fusco’s injury had they not had Joe Berger. Pollak isn’t what you’d call a long-term answer at left guard but if you’re looking for a cheaper vet to compete with Yankey (or Brandon Scherff?) in camp, this guy would be a fit.
3. Joe Reitz
Sticking with the theme of versatile players who, if they don’t start, could provide depth at a couple of positions…Joe Reitz was Mr. Everything last year for the Colts as they dealt with multiple injuries on their O-line. Hard to see Indy letting a guy this valuable walk in free agency but if they don’t push to re-sign him, he might not be a bad fellow to look at.
4. Eben Britton
The definition of an okay player who would represent an acceptable stopgap at the position until someone younger and better was ready to take over (whether that person be David Yankey or someone new you draft). He can also play tackle which makes him more attractive.
5. Justin Blalock
The Falcons cut the veteran Blalock on Friday as part of their salary cap purge. He’s a little older than these other guys at 31 but he’s coming off a good year and shouldn’t cost a ton. Look at this fellow as possible veteran competition for Yankey at left guard. If he doesn’t end up starting, he’s a very good backup. He has had injury problems recently.
I think we’re all agreed that any of those players would have been better than the Charlie Johnson/Vlad Ducasse tandem of 2014. Ideally, you would love for David Yankey to add the necessary strength and lay claim to the position in camp. But that is still way up in the air, so adding a veteran at the spot is a necessity for the Vikings.
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