The Minnesota Vikings have cut Riley Reiff, so how will they replace their starting left tackle?
The NFL salary cap has officially been set at $182.5 million for this year. No matter where it exactly sat, the Minnesota Vikings had work to do to get down to the number. On Wednesday they announced the release of left tackle Riley Reiff, clearing $11.75 million in cap space (with $3.2 million in dead money).
Offensive line is an ongoing need area for the Vikings, which bad guard play a lowlight last season. Reiff was a solid player for Minnesota, making 58 starts at left tackle over the last four seasons. After restructuring his contract late last offseason, the idea he’d have to take a pay cut resurfaced this offseason. Intentions to cut his pay again were apparently met with resistance from Reiff, so they cut him.
According to Over The Cap, the Vikings are now $8.7 million under the salary cap. But it will take more notable cuts or restructures to allow for much of anything in free agency. And now, they have replace the blindside protector for a quarterback who lacks savvy in the pocket.
How will the Vikings replace Riley Reiff?
No one the Vikings could sign in free agency will be equal to Reiff from a talent standpoint. So that leaves them looking toward the draft, possibly with the 14th overall pick now.
The top of the offensive tackle heap in this year’s draft class is Oregon’s Penei Sewell. If he falls out of the top-10, or truly past the Cincinnati Bengals at No. 5, it will be an upset. After Sewell is Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater, who might last to the Vikings at No. 14 but it’s becoming unlikely.
Next in line for Minnesota in realistic first round consideration among the tackle class will be Virginia Tech’s Christian Darrisaw, USC’s Alijah Vera-Tucker or Oklahoma State’s Teven Jenkins. They don’t have a second-round pick right now, but extra picks in the third and fourth round give them some draft capital for a move up. If they can get into the second round after going elsewhere at No. 14, Michigan’s Jalen Mayfield, Clemson’s Jackson Carman, Alabama’s Alex Leatherwood, North Dakota State’s Dillon Radunz and Texas’ Sam Cosmi would presumably be on the Vikings’ radar for a Reiff replacement.
Instead of drafting someone, in the first round as it sits right now, the Vikings could move right tackle Brian O’Neill over to left tackle and bump 2020 second-round pick Ezra Cleveland out to right tackle. Cleveland played some right guard as a rookie, if only because the other options were awful. Even if O’Neill seems likely to be the left tackle eventually and Cleveland’s ideal spot is right tackle, having those moving parts isn’t necessarily ideal. Keeping Cleveland at right guard this year is an option.
In this cap-crunched environment for 2021, it makes sense for teams to reset or go cheaper anywhere they can. But the Vikings have now created a need they didn’t necessarily have to at left tackle, and based on history it’s a move they’re likely to somehow botch.