How does the release of Pat Elflein impact the Minnesota Vikings?
By Adam Carlson
How will the Minnesota Vikings move forward without Pat Elflein?
On Saturday, Nov. 14, the Minnesota Vikings reportedly released offensive lineman Pat Elflein according to NFL Network and NFL.com insider Ian Rapoport on Twitter. The news came as a bit of a surprise considering he was just returning from injury and many expected him to return to the starting lineup at one of the guard positions.
A third-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, Elflein looked good as the team’s starting center. Following a knee injury, Elflein never looked the same and was moved to guard when the team drafted Garrett Bradbury in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft.
Minnesota stuck by Elflein for a while, giving him multiple opportunities to prove he could bounce back. However, the offensive lineman was injured again during the 2020 NFL season and was replaced by rookie Ezra Cleveland.
Elflein was set to return from his injury in Week 10, but instead, the surprising news came down that he was released. What does this mean for the team going forward?
The Minnesota Vikings are happy with their current line
Ezra Cleveland has been up and down since becoming the starter at right guard, but has shown improvement over time. Plus, left guard Dakota Dozier has been holding his own and the team has enjoyed solid play from their offensive tackles and center as well.
In particular, the last few weeks have been huge for the Vikings. Running back Dalvin Cook has been dominant on the ground and Kirk Cousins has been efficient in pairing an efficient pass game with the run.
What is the depth situation now?
Releasing Pat Elflein may free up a roster spot for the Vikings, but it also removes a former starter from the depth chart. Behind the starters, there isn’t a lot of experience or potential to work with and that could be a scary situation should something happen.
According to Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press on Twitter, Brett Jones is likely to be the player plugged in on the interior of the line if needed. Dru Samia will also be available for action if needed.
Salary cap implications and waiver process
Since Elflein was released midseason, the team is on the hook for his 2020 salary. However, the fact that he is so young and has only three full seasons of experience means he will be placed on waivers and can be claimed by any team.
The priority of claims is based on the reverse standings of teams in the NFL. That means the winless New York Jets will have the first opportunity to claim him followed by the one-win Jacksonville Jaguars.
If a team does claim Pat Elflein, Minnesota will be off the hook for a little over $1M of his salary against the cap. Otherwise, the Vikings will be eating the entirety of his $2.133M salary.
By releasing Pat Elflein instead of allowing him to enter free agency at the end of the season, any contract the offensive lineman signs before the 2021 NFL season will have no impact on the compensatory pick formula.
The Viking Age would like to thank Pat Elflein for his time with the Minnesota Vikings and wish him nothing but the best of luck in his future endeavors. And, hopefully, his release won’t have a negative impact on the team down the road.