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Here are the Vikings’ options at left tackle now that Riley Reiff has been released

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers
Sep 15, 2019; Green Bay, WI, USA; Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Brian O’Neill (75) during the game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The Vikings’ decision to release left tackle Riley Reiff on Wednesday got them under the NFL salary cap, but also created a need at a key position. Reiff was graded 40th out of 93 offensive tackles overall by Pro Football Focus last season and gave up  21 total pressures to rank 49th out of 93. That made him a rock solid and league average left tackle playing alongside overmatched left guard Dakota Dozier. So what is the plan when it comes to protecting Kirk Cousins’ blindside in 2021? Here are a few options.

  • Brian O’Neill: Entering the final season of his rookie contract, the 25-year-old took over as the starting right tackle during his rookie season and has made 42 starts over the past three seasons. O’Neill was selected in the second round of the 2018 draft after starting all 12 games of the 2017 season at left tackle for the Pitt Panthers. The Vikings are going to have to pay O’Neill so they might figure now is the time to make him the left tackle. The downside is that creates an opening at right tackle and the Vikings would have to make sure O’Neill is up to speed at a new spot, even if there is no on-the-field work again this offseason.
  • Draft a tackle: Oregon’s Penei Sewell is considered the top left tackle in the draft, but he will be long gone by the time the Vikings select at No. 14. Vikings general manager Rick Spielman spent Tuesday watching prospect Rashawn Slater at Northwestern’s Pro Day. Slater gave up only five pressures on 355 pass-blocking snaps at left tackle in 2019 before opting out this past season, according to PFF. The Vikings also could trade back — try to get a second-round pick — and target Virginia Tech’s Christian Darrisaw. He gave up zero sacks, zero hits and only six hurries all season, according to PFF.
  • Make a trade: A year ago the Vikings were pursuing Washington’s Trent Williams, who ended up going to the San Francisco 49ers. Could Vikings general manager Rick Spielman look to make another trade for a high-impact left tackle? It’s certainly a possibility and wouldn’t be surprising if his target was the Ravens’ Orlando Brown Jr., who has told the team he wants to play left tackle and not right tackle. Baltimore has a franchise left tackle in Ronnie Stanley. The Ravens have given Brown and his agent permission to search for a new team via a trade and there are certainly a few teams interested. A third-round pick in the 2018 draft, Brown likely would be costly but he also could serve as a long-term solution at one of the most important positions on offense. Brown, like O’Neill, will be entering the final season of his rookie contract and would be due a significant pay day. But Vikings cap magician Rob Brzezinski likely would work a deal so that the bigger cap hits don’t come due until the salary cap has gone back up with the NFL’s new television deal. O’Neill and Brown would not be cheap bookends but they could form one of the best tackle duos in the league.
  • Ezra Cleveland: A second-round pick in last year’s draft by the Vikings out of Boise State, the expectation was that Cleveland was the Vikings’ left tackle of the future. But Cleveland got most of his work at guard and ended up starting nine games at right guard. It won’t be surprising if the Vikings leave him there. If the Vikings are going to move a current lineman to left tackle it likely will be O’Neill.