With nine offensive linemen with at least 16 NFL starts on the roster and only five starting spots, the competition along the offensive line figures to be the fiercest of the Vikings’ position groups this summer. Here’s a quick look at where those battles stand heading into training camp.
Matt Kalil is back for a fifth season with a fully guaranteed salary of $11.1 million for 2016. The Vikings have not publicly declared Kalil, who was not as bad last season as he was during his disastrous 2014 campaign, as their starter. But it seems unlikely that second-year tackle T.J. Clemmings, who has been moved to the left side, will seriously push him.
The lone lineman to be set in stone is Alex Boone, who signed a four-year, $26.8 million contract on the first day of free agency. Well, that’s assuming the former San Francisco 49ers guard is ready to resume practicing after suffering an undisclosed injury late in the spring. The Vikings believe the veteran will bring much-needed toughness and attitude to this group.
One of the most intriguing position battles down in Mankato will be at center, where John Sullivan (pictured) and Joe Berger split the first-team reps during spring practices. Sullivan missed the entire 2015 season after twice undergoing back surgery, and Berger shined in his place. Sullivan believes his back injuries are behind him. Even so, he will have to win his job back.
Brandon Fusco is back at right guard after a shaky season at left guard. He will duke it out with Mike Harris, a converted tackle whose solid play at right guard last season was a pleasant surprise. Harris is only on a one-year deal, and Fusco has four years left on his. But Fusco is three years removed from his last strong season, so don’t pencil him in as the starter yet.
Like Sullivan, Phil Loadholt is a 30-year-old attempting to return from a major injury. In the case of Loadholt, it was a torn Achilles’ that robbed him of his 2015 season. The Vikings this spring forced him to take a pay cut, then signed former Cincinnati Bengals starting right tackle Andre Smith to a one-year deal. The loser of this battle might not make the team.