The Vikings declined center Garrett Bradbury's fifth-year option Monday, the team announced. The decision, which was widely expected, will make the 2019 first-round pick a free agent after the season.

Bradbury, the 18th overall pick out of N.C. State in 2019, was drafted as the team looked for an upgrade at the position over Pat Elflein, a third-round pick in 2017. But Bradbury struggled in pass protection, where he's had a particularly difficult time with powerful defensive tackles, and the Vikings benched him last season in favor of Mason Cole after Bradbury returned from the COVID-19 reserve list in November.

He returned to his starting center spot in December as the Vikings moved Mason Cole back to right guard, but Bradbury struggled in the final weeks of the season, particularly in a Dec. 26 loss to the Rams where he allowed a sack and three pressures.

The Vikings would have needed to pay Bradbury $13.202 million in 2023 if they had picked up his fifth-year option. They could sign him to a new deal before he hits free agency next spring, and he will have the inside track to the starting center spot, as he tries to prove himself in Kevin O'Connell's first year as head coach.

"I see a guy [with] really, really good movement skills," O'Connell said of Bradbury at the NFL combine on March 2. "Obviously, a guy that was drafted really high for a reason. I can remember evaluating him through the process. [He] did a lot of really good things in college, and it's just been a matter of finding the right fit for him and the right system, and, 'What are you asking him to do snap in and snap out that gives him the best possible chance for success?' I'm really excited about not only Garrett, but the rest of our guys up front."

Bradbury was one of 11 2019 first-round picks whose fifth-year options were declined Monday, a list that also includes No. 4 overall pick Clelin Ferrell of the Raiders and No. 6 Daniel Jones of the Giants.

In a roster move Monday, the Vikings signed fullback Jake Bargas, who spent the past two seasons on the team's practice squad. He was elevated for two games, against the Saints in 2020 and the Week 13 meeting with the Lions last season. He was an undrafted free agent out of North Carolina.