Yesterday’s feeding frenzy couldn’t last, so today’s news was less frenzied and a bit more sensible. The Vikings again only signed one player: former Carolina Panthers offensive tackle Mike Remmers (who started his career as an undrafted free agent with the Vikings in 2013). While details of Riley Reiff’s deal from Thursday are still not public [Updated, see bottom of the post], it was announced that Remmers signed a five-year contract for $30 million with $10.5 million guaranteed. Given how offensive line salaries have rocketed so far this year in free agency, $6 million per year seems almost reasonable. Adding Remmers at right tackle means former Riley Reiff is probably locked in at left tackle, so the (pre-draft) offensive line-up is likely:
That’s not going to strike fear in the hearts of defensive co-ordinators, but it’s almost certainly a significant upgrade from last year’s 29th-ranked unit. Let’s be generous and say that could be a mid-teens-level unit. With no other changes to the team, that would probably be the difference between an 8-8 season and a 10-6 season. I, for one, would take that.
If you’re a fan of Pro Football Focus rankings, here’s the comparison courtesy of The Daily Norseman:
Although Remmers and Reiff aren’t the big names that some fans wanted, they are substantial upgrades to what was one of the worst offensive lines in franchise history. But how much of an upgrade? Well, let’s use Pro Football Focus as a baseline … mainly because I can’t find a metric that has the same comparative numbers.
In 2016, PFF graded out Remmers/Reiff and the Vikings tackles like so:
TJ Clemmings 28.3
Matt Kalil 36.9
Andre Smith 39.1
Jake Long 63.9
Riley Reiff 67.5
Mike Remmers 66.1
If you want to make the valid argument that 2016 was an anomaly because of all the injuries, okay. And hey, it’s a legitimate point. So let’s go back to 2015, when the two Vikings tackles, Kalil and Clemmings, were relatively healthy and played all year:
Matt Kalil 68.4
TJ Clemmings 39.7
Riley Reiff 77.5
Mike Remmers 72.1
So the Vikings have gotten some much needed help on the o-line, and at face value, both guys look to be decent to substantial upgrades over what Minnesota had the last couple of years.
Other Viking free agents in the news included WR/KR Cordarrelle Patterson who visited Washington on Friday and was off to talk to the Raiders this weekend. For the record, I’d like to see Patterson stay with the Vikings, but I don’t think the team is planning to get into a bidding war for his services. The Vikings chose not to pick up his 2017 option for $7.9 million (which would have been insane), which made him a free agent this time around, but I could see him signing a deal in Minnesota or somewhere else for a lot more than the $1.009 million he made in 2016.
Charles Johnson is no longer a Viking, having signed a deal with the Carolina Panthers (gee, that team’s name pops up a lot) for $2.2 million … which is a bit of a reach based on his performance in 2016. Johnson had some nice on-field chemistry with Teddy Bridgewater, but couldn’t reproduce that with Sam Bradford under centre.
Disappointingly, the Panthers also announced that they’ve reached an agreement with former Viking cornerback Captain Munnerlyn. I’d hoped that Munnerlyn would be retained, as the player the team drafted to replace him (Mackensie Alexander) did not impress in limited action during the 2016 season. This may improve the chances that the team re-signs Terence Newman (in spite of both his age and his “freelancing” in the Green Bay game at the end of last season).
If free agency ended right now, you’d have to agree that the Vikings have at the very least addressed the biggest weaknesses on the team from 2016. In my uninformed opinion, they still need more depth at guard, tight end, and wide receiver, plus competition on special teams at kicker, punter, and kick returner. That’s not a terrible position to be in coming up to a draft where the team doesn’t have a first round pick, to be honest.
Update, March 11: The details on Reiff’s contract: “a five-year deal with a max value of $58.75 million, per a league source. The contract includes $26.3 million guaranteed, including his 2017 base salary of $6.2 million and his 2018 base salary of $9.1 million.” (Source: Star Tribune)