Analyzing The Market For Offensive Linemen

Posted by Mike Wobschall on July 28, 2011 – 3:38 pm

We’ve focused mostly on the QB and WR positions during the past few days, but you can be sure teams across the League have a broader focus than that. So let’s expand our horizons a bit and take a look at the current market for offensive linemen.

The Vikings have all five starters returning to the offensive line in 2011, but when you’re coming off a 6-10 season you know that all positions will be scrutinized; the Vikings offensive line will not be an exception.

Below you’ll see a list of names and a brief explanation behind each player. Which player(s) on the list do you like? Is there a name not on the list who should be considered by the Vikings? Let us know what you think in the comments section below this entry.

OT Matt Light (New England) – Odds are the Patriots will bring him back, but he’s currently on the market and is arguably the best OT remaining. The Vikings don’t need a starter at OT, so we’ll move on down the list for the next option.

RG Davin Joseph (Re-signed by Tampa Bay) – Standing at 6-3, 313 pounds, Joseph has good size for an interior lineman and he’s also got the athleticism to accompany it. He was actually recruited as a defensive lineman and he was also standout high school wrestler. Joseph is a five-year veteran and is just 27 years old, so he’s still on the upward arc of his career path. Tampa chose him in the first round of the 2006 draft out of Oklahoma and he’s been an important part of the team’s surge the past two years. Joseph has been described to me as a power blocker who excels in the running game. He did fracture his foot in November, but he’s also played all 16 games twice and 12 games another time.

OG Justin Blalock (Atlanta) – A versatile player, Blalock would fit best with the Vikings as a RG. He’s just 27 years old, has 3 seasons of experience and has never missed a game or start due to injury. Vikings offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave is familiar with Blalock from his time as the team’s offensive coordinator and you wonder if Musgrave has any interest. A second-round pick in 2007, he represents a good long-term starting option for teams looking to infuse their depth chart with competition and depth. He’s also a good fit in Minnesota because he has the size and athleticism to backup both OTs.

OT Jared Gaither (Reportedly signed with Raiders) –A mammoth OT at 6-9, 340 pounds, Gaither is a great option for a team looking for that franchise-caliber LT. But as of this moment, that’s not the Vikings. Let’s move on.

RT Tyson Clabo (Re-signed by Atlanta) –A six-year veteran with Denver and Atlanta, Clabo has prototypical size at 6-6, 331 pounds and he’s a durable player. I’m guessing he’ll re-sign in Atlanta, plus he’s another starting-caliber OT. We’ll move down the list.

RG Harvey Dahl (Atlanta) –Another guy with whom Musgrave is familiar from their time together in Atlanta, Dahl plays OG and stands at 6-5, 305 pounds. He’s 30 years old and is a six-year veteran. Dahl played in all 16 games in 2010 and 2008, but an ankle kept him out of five games in 2009. He’s a more likely signing than Clabo and Blalock, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Vikings in the mix for any of the three. Dahl would compete with Anthony Herrera for playing time and if not a starter he’d be a primary backup all along the offensive line.

OT Jammal Brown (Washington) – At two-time Pro Bowler who has been with the New Orleans Saints and most recently the Washington Redskins, Brown stands at 6-6, 313 pounds and plays RT. Again, not a position of need for the Vikings.

Already off the market: OL Daryn Colledge, OT Jermon Bushrod, OG Marshall Yanda, OT Doug Free and OG Robert Gallery

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A Look At Rice’s Departure And Where The Vikings Go From Here

Posted by Mike Wobschall on July 28, 2011 – 8:06 am

I know Vikings fans are disappointed to lose WR Sidney Rice to Seattle. And believe me, the Vikings are disappointed, too. He came to the club as a second-round pick and developed into a play-making WR and fan-favorite. Rice has the potential to be a #1 WR in the NFL for a long time and he has a skill set that makes life easier for QBs and much harder on defenses.

But let’s also not overreact to his departure.

I value interacting with fans, and from that interaction I know that the prospect of losing Rice AND keeping Bernard Berrian has many of you up in arms. Before you panic, though, let’s take a look at something and let me make a case.

Here is a comparison between Berrian and Rice during their careers in Minnesota:

Berrian: 131 receptions for 1,834 yards (14.0 average) with 11 TDs in 46 games
Rice: 146 receptions for 2,129 yards (14.6 average) with 18 TDs in 48 games

Yes, Rice’s numbers are better. But are they that much better? Also consider that as great a season as Rice had in 2009 (83 receptions for 1,312 yards and 8 TDs), he had three ordinary years around that one great year. Outside of 2009, Rice has never had more than 31 receptions, 396 yards or 4 TDs in a season. Those are below average numbers. Granted, Rice’s career arc is on the way up. He could be a tremendous threat for the Seahawks for the next decade. But what about his hip? Can he stay on the field? And will Seattle have a QB capable of getting him the ball, as Brett Favre did so well in 2009?

Don’t get me wrong, I like Rice and I think he’s a good player. I also appreciate the way Seattle is building their roster and turning the franchise around; the Seahawks are going in the right direction. But I don’t think Rice is irreplaceable. As quickly as Rice left the Vikings in free agency, the Vikings could turn around and look at the market to find another player who can come in here and help the passing game excel.

Let’s take a look a few WRs who are on the market. Let us know what you think about them by leaving a comment in the comments section below this entry.

Plaxico Burress – A big end zone, red zone and 3rd-down target, Burress was a Top 5 NFL WR when he was forced out of the league for two seasons. He’s a resurrection project in that he’s coming back to the NFL after being away for a while, but he has the fortune of Tony Dungy as a mentor. And we all know by now the close relationship Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier shares with Dungy.

Malcom Floyd – At 6-5, 225 pounds, Floyd has the body frame and skill set to be the type of physical receiver that Rice was for the Vikings. He’s also 29 years old and entering his seventh year in the NFL, so he’s still on the upswing in terms of his career arc. Floyd could be a flourishing player if given the chance to be a top target.

Braylon Edwards – Another WR with good size at 6-3, 214 pounds. In 2007 with the Cleveland Browns, Edwards had 16 TDs. So we know he can get to the endzone. Also, he’s another guy who would come in here with a chip on his shoulder because he appears to be a castoff from the NY Jets. There’s no denying Edwards’ talent and another sneaky-good part of his game is his ability to run after the catch and break tackles.

Terrell Owens – A future Hall of Famer, Owens is on his last legs but he also has a chip on his shoulder. He’s looking to win a Super Bowl and in Minnesota he could be reunited with QB Donovan McNabb, if the Vikings complete a deal with Washington for the six-time Pro Bowl QB. In addition, Owens would also be reunited with Vikings WRs coach George Stewart, one of the best position coaches in the NFL and a coach who has worked and succeeded with Owens in the past.

James Jones – Packers QB Aaron Rodgers went on record as saying that retaining Jones should be his teams “#1 priority” in free agency. That’s nearly reason enough to go and get him. But also consider that James has good speed and is a Rick Spielman-type of free agent in that he’s coming off his rookie contract and his career arc is on the uptick.

Steve Smith (Giants) – Not sure how good a fit he’d be in Minnesota because he’s primarily a slot receiver. The Vikings have a tremendous slot receiver in Percy Harvin. But if there’s mutual interest between the Vikings and Smith, I’m sure we could find room on the field for a reliable, possession receiver with tons of experience.

Roy Williams – He underperformed in Detroit, was traded to Dallas for a high price, then underperformed in Dallas. So why is he on this list, you ask? Because I don’t want to discount the fact that now he has something to prove and he also has something that the Vikings lost when Rice went out the door – the body frame to be a good target in the end zone.

Others: Mark Clayton, Derrick Mason, Lance Moore, Randy Moss and Mike Sims-Walker

Also keep in mind: Chad Ochocinco has had a tumultuous past few seasons in Cincinnati. Is he on the way out? If so, the Vikings could consider him. He’s not a spring chicken anymore, but he’s been a productive WR for his entire career and I’m betting he’s got plenty left in the tank to be a top target for the Vikings.

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