The Vikings appear more poised to shed guards than gain them in the coming weeks. It is a position where they could make the most headway in gaining salary-cap space compared to the production of their players and the importance of the position, an analysis the Vikings studied this offseason.
Leading the way among the potential salary-cap casualties is left guard Steve Hutchinson, who is set to make $6.95 million with a $50,000 workout bonus for a salary-cap figure of $7 million in the final year of his deal. Right guard Anthony Herrera is scheduled to make $2.65 million in base salary that could be saved against the cap if he was released.
So what would the Vikings have left if they made those moves? More than likely, last year's left tackle, Charlie Johnson, would be moved to guard (with a cap figure similar to Herrera's) and Joe Berger and Brandon Fusco could be among the replacement possibilities.
Don't expect the Vikings to go into free agency hungry to spend big money on a guard, but there are plenty of options available if they decide to make an unexpected flash.
Carl Nicks – Nicks has generated a lot of interest among Vikings fans, but he would surely come at a cost that would leave the Vikings shorthanded at other positions of need, and the Vikings have too many of those to replace a big salary from Hutchinson with a bigger one for Nicks. He is the best guard on the open market and ate up more snaps last season than any other free-agent guard, but he will find more lucrative pastures outside of Minnesota.
Ben Grubbs – The Baltimore blocker is probably next in the free-agent line of guards, but he missed six games because of a toe injury last year. It was the first time in his five-year career that he missed action. The Ravens would like to keep Grubbs and Matt Birk but may have to make some decisions between those two and Bryant McKinnie.
Evan Mathis – Mathis had a strong season in Philadelphia, and the Eagles would like to bring him back, but he should have a chance to test the free-agent market before that happens. As an eight-year starter, he has made only 37 starts, and 30 of them come in two seasons of work, including a 15-start season last year in Philadelphia. He isn't likely to get a sniff from the Vikings early in free agency because of the mileage already on him.
Vernon Carey – Carey could be the wildcard that tests Vikings GM Rick Spielman's desire to get younger. Carey caught Spielman's attention eight years ago and the Dolphins spent a first-round pick on him. Now he is a free agent once again, although he is considered a borderline starter at either right guard or right tackle. While he has been fairly reliable, starting 107 of 121 games over eight seasons, he had to restructure his contract to stay with the Dolphins last year.
OTHER GUARDS TO CONSIDER
Other available free-agent guards: Mike Brisiel, Kraig Urbik, Jake Scott, Chad Rinehart, Bobbie Williams, Geoff Hangartner, Ramon Foster, Montrae Holland, Kory Lichtensteiger, Jacob Bell, Ryan Diem, Nate Livings, Adam Snyder, Doug Legursky, Derrick Dockery, Mackenzy Bernadeau, Adam Goldberg, Tony Wragge, Chilo Rachal, Kasey Studdard, Russ Hochstein, Stacy Andrews, Deuce Lutui, Leonard Davis, Floyd Womack.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Free-agent exam: Vikings vs. the guards
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