ZMI ALPHA:2021 Free Agency Outlook: Offensive Line

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ZMI ALPHA:2021 Free Agency Outlook: Offensive Line

SCHEDULED TO BECOME FREE AGENTS:

Dakota Dozier (unrestricted free agent)

2020 Stats: 1,082 offensive snaps (100 percent); started all 16 games

Dozier started an entire season for the first time in his career but produced mixed results at left guard. He joined the Vikings in 2019 and started four games before moving into a starting role this past season.

Minnesota could choose to bring him back to compete for a starting job or help provide depth along the line. Dozier has extensive experience with offensive line coach Rick Dennison.

Rashod Hill (unrestricted free agent)

2020 Stats: 122 offensive snaps (11.3 percent); started one game

Hill has grown into a solid player in the swing tackle role since arriving in 2016 off Jacksonville’s practice squad. He has appeared in 59 regular-season games with 17 starts in the past five seasons and can play both ends of the line.

Hill could have options in free agency if teams pursue him as a starter. If that doesn’t materialize, he could always return to the Vikings in his usual role … or perhaps even as a starter here depending on what happens with Reiff.

Brett Jones (unrestricted free agent)

2020 Stats: 139 offensive snaps (12.8 percent); started two games

One of the most popular players in the Vikings locker room, Jones provides quality depth and the ability to start on occasion if needed. Teammates and coaches raved about him when he started in Weeks 11 and 12 this past season. Jones, a native of Canada, could choose to return to the Vikings based on his options in free agency.

As usual, there will be plenty of focus on the offensive line in the coming weeks and months. Spielman met with the Twin Cities media last week and said the trio of Bradbury, Cleveland and O’Neill are viewed as young players who are long-term pieces in Minnesota.

Reiff isn’t young at age 32, but could be part of the plan for a few more seasons if an extension comes to fruition. However, as stated above, his status will likely be sorted out soon as the Vikings try to get under the salary cap, which has a floor of $180 million.

If Dozier isn’t back (and if Cleveland moves to left tackle to take over for a potentially-departed Reiff), that would mean the Vikings would be looking for a starting guard on each side of Bradbury. There are some in-house options with Hinton and others, but it could push the Vikings to address the line in free agency and the draft.

While most recent mock drafts have the Vikings taking a defensive lineman, some pundits project offensive line help to Minnesota.

As Spielman himself stated above, there will be more clarity soon on the group in the coming weeks.

WHO’S POTENTIALLY OUT THERE?

NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal recently updated his list of the top 101 potential free agents.

The following offensive linemen are listed in order of their overall rankings (as of the time of this post): 1. Trent Williams (tackle), 9. Joe Thuney (guard), 11. Corey Linsley (center), 27. Daryl Williams (tackle), 39. David Andrews (center), 63. Austin Reiter (center), 69. Alejandro Villanueva (tackle), 75. Kelvin Beachum (tackle) and 100. Austin Blythe (guard).

There are a handful of big names here, but the players near the top will also likely come with hefty contracts, too.

Rosenthal noted that Trent Williams, an eight-time Pro Bowler, and the 49ers had an agreement that San Francisco would not tag him. The 2021 deadline for teams to tag players was March 9.

Carolina tackle Taylor Moton (originally 10th in Rosenthal’s list) and Washington guard Brandon Scherff (originally 11th) were among players who were franchise tagged.

Thuney (has started all 80 regular-season games since 2016) and Andrews (69 starts in 72 games since 2015) started for the Patriots in Super Bowls LI, LII and LIII.

Linsley has started 99 games for Green Bay and earned one Pro Bowl nod since 2014. Every other player on Rosenthal’s list has started at least 33 games.

Depending on what moves Minnesota makes (and how the Vikings view the young players already on their roster), perhaps the team tries to land a mid-tier free agent to provide stability and a veteran presence on the offensive line.

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