When the dizzying game of musical offensive tackles ended Thursday, with arguably the top five available all switching teams, the Vikings were paired with Riley Reiff, a bookend they know well from their two-a-year clashes with the Detroit Lions.
It may never be revealed where Reiff ranked among tackles in the Vikings’ free-agent pecking order. So what? Reiff figures to solidify one of their two tackle spots, which was the team’s most glaring need and its top priority heading into free agency.
Reiff, the Lions’ 2012 first-round draft pick, started 69 games in his five years in Detroit. He predominantly played left tackle in his first four NFL seasons before sliding over to the right side in 2016, after they drafted Taylor Decker with their top pick.
Reiff, a 28-year-old native of South Dakota, played collegiately at Iowa, where he garnered first-team All-Big Ten honors his final season.
It is unknown yet which tackle position the Vikings envision Reiff manning. They might not finalize that decision until after free agency and next month’s NFL draft. Whichever side he plays, he figures to be significantly more solid than what they had last season, when injuries forced them to play several different tackles.
Reiff, whom the Lions picked 19 spots after Matt Kalil in 2012, has never been ranked by Pro Football Focus as one of the NFL’s top 25 offensive tackles in any season.
But the only Vikings tackle who cracked the top 50 in PFF’s playing grading last season — and just barely — was Jeremiah Sirles, whom the Vikings would like to play at guard. Maybe Kalil would have done it had he not been lost in September.
Thursday, it was Kalil’s early-morning decision that got the tackle carousel spinning.
News broke before sunrise here that Kalil was picking the Carolina Panthers over the Vikings in part to play with his older brother, Ryan, the longtime center in Carolina. The reported five-year, $55.5 million deal he later signed, which included $25 million guaranteed, probably had a little something to do with that, too.
After making the Pro Bowl as a rookie, Kalil did not come close to consistently matching that level of play, in large part because of injuries. While never missing a start in his first four seasons, knee injuries limited his effectiveness. Then a hip injury ended his season last September. But the Vikings felt he could still regain his form.
Next, Cincinnati Bengals left tackle Andrew Whitworth, the 35-year-old Pro Bowler decided to join the Los Angeles Rams.
Then, shortly after the official 3 p.m. start to free agency, the Vikings grabbed Reiff, whose end with the Lions appeared imminent Wednesday, when the Lions said they would give bucks to Rick Wagner of the Baltimore Ravens.
Terms of Reiff’s deal, which is not yet official, were not disclosed Thursday.
Even after agreeing to terms with Reiff, the Vikings continued to express interest in Russell Okung, according to multiple reports. But the former Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos left tackle soon committed to the Los Angeles Chargers, who gave him a four-year, $53 million deal that reportedly includes $25 million guaranteed.
The Vikings have since moved on to Carolina’s Mike Remmers, who will visit the Minnesota on Friday, according to his agent. Remmers, who spent time with the Vikings in 2013 and 2014 before becoming a starter for the Panthers, is a right tackle. So if he joins the Vikings, too, Reiff will probably play left tackle.
Jeffery was target
The Vikings also expressed an interest in two free agents from NFC North rivals.
The Vikings tried to get into the mix for former Chicago Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery. But the big red-zone threat opted to take a one-year deal with the Philadelphia Eagles.
And they will host ex-Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy sometime in the next few days, according to his agent. He profiles as a potential between-the-tackles pounder in the event they don’t re-sign Adrian Peterson, who at the end of his first day as an NFL free agent still had not been strongly linked to another team.
In addition to Kalil, the Vikings said goodbye Thursday to punter Jeff Locke and blocking tight end Rhett Ellison, who signed with the Indianapolis Colts and the New York Giants, respectively. Plus, they opted not to place a restricted free-agent tender on wide receiver Charles Johnson, making him an unrestricted free agent.