Contract considerations: FB Zach Line

Zach Line’s contract negotiations for a long-term contract are a little tricky considering his limited use and the future of Adrian Peterson. Does that mean a one-year qualifying offer?

Last year marked the first year that Minnesota Vikings fullback Zach Line was able to become a full-time starter. There was a lot of speculation as to whether or not the Vikings would even have a fullback on their 53-man roster once training camp concluded, but the coaches decided to give him a spot and it seemed to pay off.

Line was primarily used as a run blocker, but he did get the chance to make plays with the ball in his hands from time to time. He recorded six rushes for 10 yards and two touchdowns, as well as six receptions for 95 yards and a touchdown – including a 49-yard reception.

The fullback totaled 51 snaps in the passing game and 184 snaps in the running game. Finishing up the year as the No. 15 fullback in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus. Now, after the conclusion of his third NFL season, Line is a restricted free agent.

It’s more than likely that the Vikings are going to try and re-sign the fullback after his successful season and the chemistry he was able to build with All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson. The question then becomes what kind of contract offer could he expect to see.

Line originally entered into the NFL as an undrafted free agent in 2013. His first contract was a three-year deal worth $1.498 million ($499,333 average) with $8,000 guaranteed. He will see an increase from that in his next contract after performing the way he did in 2015 and having veteran minimum salaries kicking in with his increased experience.

Contract considerations: One player that is comparable to Line when considering contract possibilities is Kansas City Chiefs fullback Anthony Sherman. Sherman played a similar amount of snaps as Line in 2015 (74 passing plays, 132 rushing plays), was graded just two spots ahead of Line by PFF and is just two years older than Line.

In 2014, Sherman received a three-year contract extension worth $6.3 million (averaging $2.1 million per year) with $2,303,529 fully guaranteed. Line might see numbers close to this..

Last season, Sherman recorded just one rushing attempt for zero yards, and four receptions for 34 yards and zero touchdowns. Those numbers are much lower than the ones Line was able to produce.

Another player to look at for a contract comparison is San Francisco 49ers fullback Bruce Miller. He also received a three-year deal back in 2014 and his was worth $5.4 million (averaging $1.8 million per year) with $3.25 guaranteed. Miller is also similar to Line in that he is 28 years old and was graded just three spots ahead of Line by PFF – one spot ahead of Sherman.

Miller also has very similar 2015 stats to Line, where he recorded six rushing attempts for 14 yards and one touchdown while also recording 10 receptions for 135 yards. And even though he has better stats than Sherman, he is making less money over the same period of time, but he does have more money guaranteed.

Other considerations: A big part in deciding Line’s contract is how much the Vikings plan on using a fullback down the road. Peterson is getting older and it is clear that quarterback Teddy Bridgewater will be the future of this team and he is more comfortable working out of a shotgun, which does not leave a lot of room for a fullback.

The Vikings also have a couple tight ends on their roster, one of which is also a free agent this offseason, who have the ability to line up in the backfield as a fullback.

Those two things hurt Line’s chances of receiving a bigger multi-year deal, but there has been interest expressed by both sides to get a deal done. It’s very likely that Line will be a Viking again in 2016, with a one-year qualifying offer for a restricted free agent a possibility, but the bigger question is how many years will the contract be for. That should be a good indication of how the Vikings plan to move forward with their offense. 

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