Riley Riff is given a salary ultimatum. Riley Reef says goodbye to his teammates. His agent cancels the league for business interest. Riley Reef says he thinks he will be released. Theatrical close and music. Another soap-opera cliff-hanger.
The next day Mike Jimmer said we would have to wait and see what happens. Then the news breaks: Reef agrees to restructure his contract and stay with the Vikings. Hooray! All’s well that ends well.
Except that is not really the end. This is the beginning. The season is quickly approaching, and what have the Vikings done to improve the offensive line?
Where is the plan
The Vikings had a full off season to consider their best five, which position is the best, where they needed more competition, along with salary contests.
His first move was to present his best-performing guard, Josh Kline, who signed a 3-year, $ 15.5MM agreement with the Vikings just a year ago, with a pay cut or an ultimatum to leave . He was released, making about $ 2.666MM in dead cap and saving $ 1.5MM. The Vikings could have saved a bit more salary cap, cutting off Pat Elfelin, who performed worse than Kline last season. Kline had concurrent issues, but it was unclear why he was approached with a pay cut.
Meanwhile, the coaching staff was talking to people such as Drew Samia, Ollie Udoh and Avinte Collins who might be ready to step up.
Then came the draft and the Vikings made a serious effort to trade for LT Trent Williams, possibly to replace LT Riley Reef. The deal did not go through, and so the Vikings drafted Ezra Cleveland. And immediately he was taken to the guard.
When training camp finally began, we learned – out of nowhere – that Pat Elfelin was the presumed starter in right guard and Dakota Dossier in left guard. None of the coaches had said anything about either one during the off-season to suggest that they would get the first crack when starting their guard job. In fact Elfelin was not missing from any discussion of starting a particularly aggressive lineman. But we found out that a “group decision” had already been made for Elphine to move to the right guard earlier in the off-season. His third position as a starter for the Vikings. He has been at or near the bottom of the league every year in pass protection.
Ezente Collins will compete with Ezra Cleveland 3rd string, at left guard.
The Vikings had been aware of the lack of a salary cap since the start of the off-season, and needed to free up space for potential core player extensions, but Riley Reef, who hit the $ 13.2MM cap, average performer and Dead Dead Cap is not left. His deal was praised by the coaches and given the opening left tackle spot where he took all the snacks when he was not healthy or on Veterinarian Day.
But then the Vikings traded for Yanik Ngakouye, and the reef suddenly became expendable. Two weeks before their first game, the Vikings approached Riff, such as earlier in the year, with an ultimatum to take a pay cut or be released. The Vikings wasted no time in setting up Brian O’Neill, with Ollie Udoh working the left tackle in the left tackle as Rashod Hill were not practicing. Apparently the Vikings were ready to roll with O’Neill in the left tackle, and Rashod Hill or possibly Ollie Udoh from the right tackle.
In the meantime the Dakota Dozier was determined to be the best left guard available, and Pat Elfelin is the best right guard, despite some related performances in training camp, and past history that suggests both multi-year vats are the best . This is Dossier’s 7th year as a pro – and will be his first as a starter.
Rick Spielman had stated that there would be an open competition at both guard spots in the off season. None, but Elfelin received first-team representatives in the right guard, and there was limited competition between Dozier and Collins in the left guard.
Cleveland was never really a candidate for the starting guard job, Drew Samia seems to have disappeared. Rick Dennison today praised Brett Jones for helping teach all young people, but he was still not mentioned or considered for starting duty. Oli Udho was first recognized since the start of training camp because there was a good camp, doing well, a bright future, but the continuity needed to be improved. Rashod Hill was also praised for his improvement and performing well in the camp.
But now that Reef has opted for a pay cut, it will obviously start once again. We knew that Reef was not approached about moving to left guard despite dealing with a strong depth position with Rafod Hill and Ollie Udoh, doing well in early 2019 and being only an average performer at the Reef Tackle . Apparently the coaching staff is ready to reshuffle other starting linemen to different starting positions, but not Reef. Reef said last month that they are all cross-trained, and he wants to play wherever he wants to play.
The bottom line, despite being an aggressive link in the Vikings’ offense last season – and for years – was the plan to maintain the status quo, in addition to replacing Josh Cline with Jose Dolier and switching to Elphin from left to right.
What could they do
Given the Vikings’ salary cap status, he included Riley-Reef in other veteran cuts at the start of the off-season, or at least approached him with a salary cut ultimatum like he did Josh Cline. I think Reef would have gone to that point, which would have been fine, as the Vikings have three viable starting tackles in Brian O’Neill, Rashod Hill and Ollie Udoh, which would probably do just as well. Better than O’Neill and Reef. They could then prepare O’Neill at left tackle and Udoh and Hill faced the right tackle.
If they really felt that Josh Cline was a contemporary problem, they could do as they had done with him, but they could make the save and bring in Selechi Osimel to knock down the left guard. The Chiefs signed him to replace his left guard, who opted for a $ 1.2 million option in late July. Osemele is his prime member at the age of 31 and arrives at the last time of surgery, but he has never pressured more than 21 in one season since 2012 and allowed only 9 sacks in 7 seasons. He played a left guard in Kubiak’s system in 2014, so it would not be new to him. She is 6’5 “, 330lbs and was a first-team All-Pro in 2016 and a first-team Pro Bowler in 2017. Somehow I think he might be an upgrade on the Dakota dossier.
They could still draft Ezra Cleveland at left guard next year, which is probably their current plan for him.
On the right track, they could actually have a contest among all the other internal linemen, including Josh Cline, to get the best of the bunch instead of settling with Elfelin. Second place could be a backup guard with Cleveland, and Jones as a backup center if the backup doesn’t start.
That would give them O’Neill – Osimel – Bradbury – RG winners – Hill / Udoh for an opening five, and they (likely) give Reef-Dossier-Bradbury-Elflen-O’Neill after the reef for less money. Reorganization of contract.
He would also have a good starting candidate coming to Cleveland, and if Osmele worked, they could actually pursue him a year or two or so long as he plays well.
But from the time he has been here, Vikings offensive coach Rick Dennison has been largely satisfied with the talent in the Vikings’ roster. His style is to pre-determine the starting lineup, to maximize practice time simultaneously. He did this last year, and it seems to be the same this year.
The decision to make Dakota Dossier – whom Dennison brought with him from the Jets – seems to be the best approach to an early left guard. Last season he gave up 18 pressures, including 2 sacks, with 2 penalties, with only 184 passes in a blocking snap. This translates into a pass blocking efficiency of 94.6%. Guess where at least as many Dozier ranked among the guards with pass blocking photos?
dead last. 81st of 81.
And where did Pat Elfelin, the Vikings’ other starting guard, rank by similar measure last year?
There were reports at the training camp that both had trouble several times against the Vikings’ internal defensive line, all of which have mediocre PFF grades.
so there you go. Of all the players and prospects the Vikings had at the conclusion of their entire season, this is what came out on top.
Rick Dennison would be better off thinking Dozier and Elfelin would be better, and I mean much better, they were under pass protection than last year. Neither of them had anything to write home about, such as run blockers as well. If he’s wrong, he should be fired — along with Dozier and Elfelin.