The Vikings made several roster transactions in the days preceding 2011 Verizon Vikings Training Camp and their efforts to mold the team’s roster continued early this week. Their latest move revamps one of the most important positions on the field – left tackle – and it marks the end of an era as well.
The Vikings on Tuesday released LT Bryant McKinnie, ending his nine-year run with the Vikings. In his place, the Vikings might call on OT Charlie Johnson, whom the team acquired on Monday. Johnson is entering his sixth season in the NFL and spent the previous five campaigns with the Indianapolis Colts.
“This decision, while not an easy one, is in the best interests of our football team as we move forward preparing for the season,” Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said. “We appreciate Bryant’s contributions to the Vikings and we wish him the best in the future.”
McKinnie had been a solid starter for the Vikings throughout his career, never missing a game because of injury, blocking for six of the top eight single-season rushers in team history and blocking for a 1,000-yard rusher in the past five seasons. He did what you expect from a #7 overall choice – lock down a starting spot for nearly a decade.
But the time came for Minnesota to replace him. Suspect play over the past two seasons along with other ancillary issues moved the Vikings to make a change. The addition of Johnson will provide Vikings QBs with a capable, experienced blindside protector and it will make them younger at the position.
Johnson, a product of Oklahoma State, has played in 74 career games with 54 starts, yet he’s just 27 years old. He measures in at 6-4, 305 pounds, giving him the size up front to battle in the run game but also giving him the mobility to handle outside speed rushers in pass protection. And you don’t hang around the Colts for six seasons if you’re not productive and reliable.
The Colts selected offensive linemen with their first two picks of the 2011 NFL Draft and then were unable to re-sign Johnson.
The Vikings are itching to get back to the postseason and the addition of Johnson will be helpful in that quest. He’s played in 10 playoff games with five starts, including appearances in two Super Bowls and one Super Bowl start. The Colts won 10+ games every year Johnson played there and Johnson was Manning’s blindside protector for a pair of MVP seasons in 2008 and 2009.
This move truly marks a transition for the Vikings at a premier position. McKinnie has drawn a profuse amount of criticism over the last two seasons, but an objective look at his career should yield a favorable opinion of his tenure in Minnesota. At the same time, this has the potential to be a positive move for the Vikings as they look to build a roster that can take the franchise back to the playoffs.
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