Guard options remain for Vikings

The Vikings showed interest in a few guards at the top of the free-agent rankings, but their sights might have to be set a little lower more than two weeks into free agency. Who is still out there and how would they fit? We examine.

Left guard remains one of the positions of need that the Minnesota Vikings have not yet addressed this offseason beyond the re-signing of interior swingman Joe Berger.

You can be sure, though, that the team will address it at some point in free agency, or in the draft because Charlie Johnson and Vladimir Ducasse are the two players to play left guard for the Vikings in 2014 and neither are expected to return to the team in 2015. Johnson was released and remains unsigned, and Ducasse was signed by the Chicago Bears.

The Philadelphia Eagles are reportedly open to trading Pro Bowl guard Evan Mathis, but he is 33 years old and missed part of the season in 2014 with an injury. Still, he was able to come back and make the Pro Bowl. Pro Football Focus also had Mathis rated as the No. 2 guard in the nation at the end of the 2014 season.

But beyond Mathis there are still some guards in free agency they could look at to fill the void on their offensive line. has Justin Blalock rated as the No. 3 free agent offensive guard, and the highest rated available guard. Blalock is 31 years old, which is older than what general manager Rick Spielman usually signs – although this offseason has seen the Vikings sign players like Shaun Hill and close in on Terence Newman, both well over the age of 30.

In 2014, Blalock played in 991 snaps over the course of 15 games – all of which were at left guard. He was credited with allowing three sacks, only six quarterback hits, and 20 quarterback hurries.

Being considered the best remaining free agent guard means that Blalock could still get a big contract, and this offseason has shown that the Vikings will pull out of discussions if the price gets too high. The next highest rated offensive guard, according to Scout, is Rob Sims at No. 5. Like Blalock, Sims is 31 years old, which could steer the Vikings away from him.

Even if he is getting older, Sims has shown he has the ability to play at productive level consistently. Last season he played in every offensive snap during the Detroit Lions’ regular season and was credited with allowing five sacks, six quarterback hits and 22 quarterback hurries. However, Sims has expressed that he would like to remain with the Lions and the team has reportedly reached out to him about re-signing.

If your looking at younger players, which Spielman usually tends to target, that might just be for depth, one that could make sense is Jeff Linkenbach. He is 27 years old – will turn 28 in June – and not only does he have the ability to play guard but tackle as well. That kind of versatility could be very useful for the Vikings because it would allow them to back up multiple positions with one player.

He is also a player who is used to competition, as he was one of three players competing for a starting guard spot with the Kansas City Chiefs a year ago. Scout has Linkenbach rated as the No. 23 free agent offensive guard overall.

Another player the Vikings could consider in free agency is Jah Reid. Scout has Reid listed as the No. 24 free agent offensive guard, and like Linkenbach, Reid has the ability to play both guard and tackle. Reid has been a part of the Baltimore Ravens since they drafted him in the third round of the 2011 draft.

One thing that could steer the Vikings away from Reid is that he was arrested last offseason and charged with two misdemeanor accounts of battery following an altercation at a strip club.

One thing to also keep in mind when looking at guards is that the Vikings have two young players already on their roster in David Yankey and Austin Wentworth that should continue to improve. Whoever they bring in, there will likely be a competition between all available offensive linemen to see who earns the starting spot.

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