When Nick Easton received a sizable offer from the New Orleans Saints that his former team couldn’t match, the Minnesota Vikings went on the hunt for a starting guard who could fit in with Gary Kubiak and Kevin Stefanski’s scheme.
They found Josh Kline, a veteran linemen whose most recent team in Tennessee used zone running concepts. On Wednesday the Vikings signed him to a three-year deal worth $15.75 million.
“The scheme is similar to the scheme I had this past year,” Kline said via conference call on Thursday. “Outside zone-oriented, and it’s got that West Coast feel. The terminology is the same, basically verbatim, so it’s really going to help out with the transition from Tennessee to Minnesota.”
The 29-year-old right guard fits the profile of a zone blocker. He’s undersized at 6-foot-3, 300-pounds — nearly an exact replica of Easton — and has the quickness to block in space.
“You’ve got to be somewhat athletic because there’s a lot of running involved obviously with outside zone schemes,” Kline said. “Then you’ve just to be a good team players. You’ve got to know what to do and be cerebral. There’s a lot of things that can happen within a play. I know an average play only lasts like five or six seconds on average, so I mean there’s a lot of stuff that can happen so you’ve just got to be ready for anything and prepared for anything.”
In the past Kline produced quality grades from Pro Football Focus, but last season his numbers dipped, ranking 38th of 55 guards with more than 600 snaps overall and allowing 38 pressures and four sacks. In 2017, he was graded as the 12th best pass blocking guard.
The Vikings’ new guard will be tasked with improving the protection around quarterback Kirk Cousins, who was pressured on on 202 of 606 drop backs last season. Kline said he believes Cousins’ familiarity with the Shanahan style offense will help boost the QB’s performance in 2019.
“I think it’s very important,” Kline said. “I think it definitely helps out with the transition for me and for Kirk. I’m sure when he was at Washington, he had some of the same verbiage and everything. There’s little things that are different, but everything is pretty much the same and there’s a lot of aspects in any offense throughout the league that have similar aspects but just have different terminology. I this system, the terminology is basically the same so it’s going to help out.”
Kline might not end up being the only linemen the Vikings add. The Pioneer Press reported they are still interested in bringing back Brett Jones, who served as a fill-in for Pat Elflein in the first four weeks of 2018.