Another change might be imminent for the Vikings’ offensive line as left tackle Riley Reiff has been told he’ll need to take a pay cut to avoid getting released soon, according to a league source.
Reiff, who was absent from the start of Monday’s practice and replaced by Brian O’Neill during positional drills, was approached recently by the Vikings about restructuring his contract after the team acquired ex-Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue.
Ngakoue renegotiated his franchise tender for the Vikings, agreeing to a one-year, $12 million deal; cutting Reiff would save about $11 million against this season’s cap. The Vikings had $12.2 million in space before trading for Ngakoue, according to NFLPA data.
Two weeks before the Vikings host the Green Bay Packers in the season opener at U.S. Bank Stadium, O’Neill moved to the left side for the first time in his NFL career. He took every rep as the first-team left tackle during Sunday’s practice, when Reiff watched from the sideline, and stood next to left guard Dakota Dozier again during Monday’s positional drills.
Veteran swing tackle Rashod Hill lined up alongside right guard Pat Elflein on Monday after sitting out the past two practices because of an apparent injury. With Hill held out Sunday, second-year tackle Oli Udoh took reps as the first-team right tackle.
Reiff, a 31-year-old team captain, has had an uneven tenure during three seasons as the Vikings’ left tackle, struggling most in 2018 when he played through a foot injury. He’s entering the fourth year of a five-year, $58.75 million deal he signed during 2017 free agency. The former Lions draft pick has no remaining guaranteed money in the contract.
Remaining cap costs for the Vikings include accounting for a full 53-man roster (offseason cap rules only count the top 51 players), an expanded 16-man practice squad, and eventual injury replacements. Carrying over space might also be enticing for teams. The financial consequences of the coronavirus pandemic could cause the 2021 cap to fall as low as $175 million, down from $198.2 million this year.
Ready, set, go!
Co-defensive coordinator Andre Patterson withheld comment about Ngakoue, the Vikings’ newest star pass rusher, “until we get him in the building.” Ngakoue is in Minnesota and is already two days into the NFL’s entry protocols for COVID-19 testing, which requires three negative tests in four days.
If cleared, Ngakoue’s first day at TCO Performance Center is Thursday — 10 days before the season opener. Patterson expects Ngakoue to make an immediate impact, and “tremendously” so for the Vikings’ young cornerbacks.
“If the quarterback is throwing the ball too short or too far,” Patterson said, “[or] you speed up his rhythm and he’s got to get the ball out of his hands before the receivers have a chance to break off their routes.”
‘Nothing’s a given’
When asked about defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo writing “Fool’s Gold” on his Twitter account after the team acquired Ngakoue, Patterson said he doesn’t have to do anything different to manage the defensive line room. Odenigbo will go back to a rotational role after practicing as a starter in Everson Griffen’s old spot throughout camp.
“Nothing’s a given in this league,” Patterson said. “You earn everything you get. And that’s not just him. That’s all the players on our team.”
Hunter still out
Defensive end Danielle Hunter did some jogging and stretching, the most activity he’s shown since he’s been sidelined for two weeks because of an undisclosed injury. But he did not have a helmet or pads for the 13th straight practice.
Reiff, rookie defensive end Kenny Willekes and linebacker Ben Gedeon (PUP) were the only other players not practicing. Willekes has missed two sessions since leaving Friday’s practice on crutches.