Last year, Ryan Cook started the first 10 games at right tackle before he was benched in favor of Artis Hicks. But Hicks was only able to make two starts in the final month-plus of the season because of a triceps injury.
"I think we've got to play better there. I don't think that's any secret. I think Ryan would tell you he has to play better there," Vikings coach Brad Childress said last week at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
The Vikings were interested in Jordan Gross and Vernon Carey, two of the top free-agents-to-be at the position, but each of them signed big-money deals to return to their respective teams, the Panthers and Dolphins, last week – well in advance of the start of the free-agent signing period.
So what is the Vikings' plan to improve there?
According to a league source, they may look to their current roster and the NFL draft in April to improve the position.
"The Vikings feel that their younger players at tackle will step up and they may fortify that position with the abundance of good OL in the draft," the source said.
The draft is considered deep at the offensive tackle position and several NFL coaches and general managers agreed with that assessment at the Combine.
"I see a lot of size and real athletes," Raiders coach Tom Cable said of the draft class. "Normally, you have some good athletes and a bunch of big guys. I think there are a lot more big guys who are athletic this year. There's a little more depth."
The Vikings were considered to be in competition with the Chicago Bears for a number of positions of need when free agency opened, but the Bears have already shelled out money to a veteran player without much starting experience, former Panther Frank Omiyale, who started one game for Carolina last year when Gross was injured.
The former fifth-round pick of the Atlanta Falcons out of the 2005 draft will receive a total package of at least $11.5 million and the deal could be worth as much as $14 million should he reach certain playing time levels in the contract, according to Scout.com's Adam Caplan. Omiyale will also receive a $5.5 million signing bonus, Caplan reported.
The Eagles are close to signing Bengals tackle Stacy Andrews, according to Scout.com's Chris Steuber. Andrews could get as much as $7 million per year, according to ProFootballTalk.com. He was franchised last season by the Bengals, but suffered a severe leg injury towards the end of the 2008 season, which has deterred Cincinnati from re-signing him, Steuber said.
If the Vikings do wait until the draft to address the position, there should be plenty of competition then as well.
"Just look at last year. All the draft experts had some guys as second-round picks and maybe later and the run started on offensive tackles early," said Lions head coach Jim Schwartz. "Coaches realize how important those guys are to schemes, so any year is good to be a tackle."