If Vikings OL improves, it will be at a discount.
June 8, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. © Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.
The 2022 Minnesota Vikings are near the top of the NFL for spending on quarterback and running back positions. To offset the high salaries given to Kirk Cousins and Dalvin Cook, the Vikings rank near the bottom of the league in defensive back spending.
And the cuts don’t stop at the defensive secondary. Minnesota invests a relatively small amount of money on the offensive line, at least compared to other teams.
Indeed, the Vikings rank fifth in the fewest dollars allocated to an offensive line for 2022. Only one man on Minnesota’s offensive line rakes the batter, and that’s Pro Bowl right tackle Brian O’ Neill. Apart from O’Neill, the starters – or the men who could be starters because the OL group is not solidified – are not paid so generously. Each unnamed offensive lineman O’Neill which could start in 2022 carries a cap of less than $5 million – Christian Darrisaw, Ezra Cleveland, Garrett Bradbury, Jesse Davis, Ed Ingram and Chris Reed.
Whether this is a “good” thing for the Vikings remains to be determined. Why? Well, the team’s offensive line pass protection acumen has been floundering for a long time. In the past eight years, the Vikings’ pass blocking has only been near average once — the 2017 season, when Minnesota came close to hosting a Super Bowl at home.
Protection Vikings OL Pass,
2014 = 23rd
2015 = 28th
2016 = 30th
2017 = 17th
2018 = 27th
2019 = 27th
2020 = 29th
2021 = 27th
The Vikings’ plan with the offensive line hasn’t worked — at all — for about a decade. Luckily, the team now has a new general manager and head coach to attempt a solution, so maybe spending a small amount of money in the offensive trenches just works. But no reasonable Vikings fan will believe until that happens.
Minnesota has the edges of the offensive line all stitched up. O’Neill and Darrisaw make a formidable OT duo and aren’t the cause of the Vikings’ pass protection slump. The center and right guard positions, on the other hand, keep Viking enthusiasts awake at night.
First-round draft stock was used on Bradbury in 2019, and his pass blocking is porous. He will now fight for a job this summer to remain the Vikings’ starting center. At right guard, the battle will involve Jesse Davis of the Miami Dolphins, rookie Ed Ingram, Chris Reed of the Indianapolis Colts and possibly, as a longshot, Wyatt Davis of the 2021 NFL Draft.
If Minnesota can fill those two spots with capable players, the pass protection nightmare will end and the frugal nature of offensive line spending will be vindicated.
Overall, one thing is certain. The Vikings are “absolutely not throwing money at the problem”. Kwesi Adofo-Mensah is trying to fix offensive trenches on a tiny budget compared to the rest of the NFL.
Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube channel, VikesNow. He host a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, airing every Wednesday with Raun Saw and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Guilty pleasures listed: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, “The Sopranos” and The Doors (the band).