It’s no coincidence three of the remaining NFL free agent offensive linemen you’ve seen the Vikings connected to through the past week — ex-Titans guard Josh Kline, ex-Falcons tackle Ryan Schraeder and ex-Vikings guard Nick Easton — would not mess up the Vikings’ positioning for a possible 2020 third-round draft pick through the league’s compensatory formula.
Kline was recently cut by Tennessee; Schraeder, too, in Atlanta. Easton is the Vikings’ own free agent. Those designations mean no signing, which could be significant as offensive linemen pocket increasingly bloated salaries in free agency, would offset the big-money deal Sheldon Richardson got in Cleveland.
It’s a guiding point for general manager Rick Spielman entering the secondary waves of NFL free agency while speculated to have among the lowest salary cap space and needs along the offensive line, at kicker, backup quarterback, receiver and running back, among others.
G Josh Kline (Titans) —Kline, 29, is the model success story for a Mid-American Conference offensive lineman who went undrafted. The Kent State product, listed 6-3 and 300 pounds, grew into a starter for the Patriots and has started 84 games in six NFL seasons, including two AFC Championships. He was cut by the Titans last week, just a year after signing a four-year, $26 million contract. Tennessee ate $3.5 million in dead money to move on after Kline reportedly refused a pay cut following 16 starts at right guard. He’s played better than his down 2018 season. The Vikings would be looking for him to rebound from his Titans stint.
The Vikings could look to bring in Josh Kline for a visit this week; sources say they're interested in the former Titans guard.
— Ben Goessling (@GoesslingStrib) March 17, 2019
OT Ryan Schraeder (Falcons) —Schraeder, who turns 31 in May, is an experienced right tackle who isn’t without his own baggage. The Falcons moved on from Schraeder after six seasons, the most recent of which he lost his starting job in December to Ty Sambrailo. He was undrafted out of Valdosta State and started for the Falcons in their Super Bowl loss to the Patriots. He’s listed at 6-7 and 300 pounds. The upside is Schraeder would have history playing in a Shanahan system, which the Vikings are looking to implement with Gary Kubiak in the fold.
G/C Nick Easton (Vikings) —The Vikings have made overtures to Easton’s camp about a possible re-signing, Spielman said last week. He’s coming off back-to-back surgeries that ended his 2017 and 2018 seasons, but played well at left guard and is a reliable backup at center when healthy. He’s expected to be medically clearedto resume his career. Only a bidding war could prevent a return. Easton visited the Saints last week.
Update: Easton agreed to a four-year with the Saints on Sunday night, according to his agency. It’s worth up to $24 million, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
G Josh Sitton (Dolphins) —Could another return to the NFC North be in play for Sitton? Entering his age 33 season, Sitton played just one game for the Dolphins last season before he was done with a torn rotator cuff. The former Packers and Bears veteran has played both left and right guard. He appeared in at least 12 games per season for nine straight years before 2018. He was cut by Miami last week.
G T.J. Lang (Lions) —The longtime Packers starter, who was cut by the Lions and therefore also wouldn’t factor into the compensatory formula, has been banged up entering his age 32 season. He started six games at right guard last season before being placed on injured reserve. He’s contemplating retirement, but could be an option if he decides to return for an 11th NFL season.
#Vikings guards with NFL snaps currently under contract for 2019:
Danny Isidora (361 snaps)
— Andrew Krammer (@Andrew_Krammer) March 11, 2019
K Matt Bryant (Falcons) —New England’s Stephen Gostkowski is also a free agent, but Bryant might be the more sensible option in terms of spending. After he was cut by the Falcons, Bryant said last month he will be playing for another team in an 18th NFL season. He turns 44 in May, but he’s made 90.7 percent of his field goals in the past three seasons, including longs of 57, 57 and 59 yards. Hey, he’s still two years younger than Adam Vinatieri.
P Matt Darr (Bills) — The Vikings retained punter Matt Wile on a one-year exclusive rights tender, but Mike Zimmer has already spoken about replacing him as the holder. Could competition come for the punting job? Darr had his best NFL season (47.6-yard average in 2015) when new special teams coordinator Marwan Maalouf was a Dolphins assistant.
WR Pierre Garcon (49ers) —The veteran deep threat turns 33 in August and was let go by San Francisco just two years into a five-year, $47.5 million contract. Both years ended on injured reserve as Garcon has dealt with neck and back injuries. The upside is his connection with Kirk Cousins, including five seasons together in Washington. Is he affordable for the Vikings? They’re also weighing a possible new contract for receiver Aldrick Robinson, who caught five touchdowns for the Vikings last season.
RB Isaiah Crowell (Jets) —Crowell, 26, was cut by the Jets after New York signed Le’Veon Bell in a free-agent splash. That leaves an effective runner looking for work. Crowell averaged 4.8 yards per carry last season while Dennison, the Vikings’ new run game coordinator, held the same role with the Jets.
OLB Vincent Rey (Bengals) — Rey, 31, worked his way up through the Bengals practice squad under Zimmer when he went undrafted in 2010 out of Duke. He’s been a reliable backup and spot starter for Cincinnati, missing just two games since 2011.