The New Orleans Saints’ decision to release Larry Warford on Friday presented the Vikings with an opportunity to upgrade an offensive line that’s in need of help, especially at the interior spots.
Warford had gone to the Pro Bowl in each of his three years as the Saints’ starting right guard (all were as an alternate), and while New Orleans wanted to get younger and more athletic at that position, the Vikings are currently without a right guard. Josh Kline signed a three-year, $15.5 million contract with the Vikings in March 2019 but was released after only one season in purple.
Interestingly, it doesn’t appear as if Warford is on the Vikings’ radar. One issue is that the 6-3, 317-pound Warford is not considered a good fit for Minnesota’s zone blocking scheme. Another might be what the Vikings saw firsthand from him in their first-round playoff victory over the Saints last season in New Orleans.
The Vikings caused the Saints’ offensive line, including Warford, all kinds of problems when they moved ends Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter inside and successfully got pressure on quarterback Drew Brees. Brees was sacked three times in the Saints’ 26-20 overtime loss.
That performance was why the Saints drafted Michigan center Cesar Ruiz with the 24th pick of the first round in last month’s draft. Ruiz or Erik McCoy, a second-round pick by New Orleans last year, will take over at right guard and the other is expected to play center.
Warford, who will turn 29 in June and has started all 101 games in which he has played during a seven-year career with the Lions and Saints, is considered to be on the down side when it comes to athletic ability. According to Bob Rose, who is the Saints reporter for Sports Illustrated, Warford’s ability to run block “remained stellar at the point of attack,” but “one area he struggled with was getting outside when asked to pull around the edge or getting to the spot in a timely manner on screen passes.”
If that was a problem in New Orleans, it would be a problem in Minnesota and it doesn’t help that Warford’s weight and conditioning were an issue last season. Warford was due a base salary of $7.65 million in the final year of his contract in 2020 with the Saints.
How much is he going to get on the market? Warford reportedly is targeting around $7 million per year but the guess here is he isn’t going to get that. There are still some significant names remaining in the second tier of free agency, such as defensive ends Jadeveon Clowney and Everson Griffen and cornerback Logan Ryan, and with teams unable to have players visit because of the coronavirus pandemic these players aren’t dealing from a position of strength.
Right now, the Vikings appear likely to give 2019 fourth-round pick Dru Samia every opportunity to win the right guard spot. Samia’s only substantial action as a rookie came in a meaningless Week 17 game against the Bears so he will enter training camp (whenever it starts) with plenty of question marks.
The Vikings rank 18th in the NFL in salary cap space with $12.3 million and have the ability to create more room. The odds of them doing that to take a look at Warford seem pretty small.