Vikings sign Andre Smith, have the NFL's most expensive offensive line
After signing Smith and Alex Boone, the Vikings are spending more than a quarter of their salary cap money on linemen.
Last season, the Minnesota Vikings had one of the worst offensive lines in all of football. Teddy Bridgewater was sacked 45 times, which tied for the eighth-highest total in the league. Because the Vikes were one of the most run-heavy teams, though, that figure is actually worse than it sounds. Minnesota ranked 29th in Football Outsiders' Adjusted Sack Rate (which adjusts sacks plus intentional grounding penalties for down, distance, and opponent) and 31st in Pro Football Focus' Pass Blocking Efficiency (which measures pressure on a per-snap basis).
With the coaching staff and front office wanting to see Teddy "let it loose more," it was obvious that solidifying the line had to be a priority this offseason. Minnesota began free agency by signing guard Alex Boone away from the 49ers on a four-year, $26.8 million deal. On Thursday, former Bengals tackle Andre Smith announced that he's headed to the Vikings as well.
Smith's contract is worth a reported $3.5 million, per NFL Network, with incentives that can bring the value up to $4.5 million. He will presumably compete for the right tackle slot with Phil Loadholt, who is returning from a torn Achilles that kept him out for the entire 2015 season, and T.J. Clemmings, who filled in for Loadholt as a rookie last year.
Even before the Smith signing, the Vikes had the NFL's most expensive offensive line for the 2016 season, according to Spotrac. Without Smith, they had just south of $35 million in cap space invested in the guys up front, over 25 percent of the total room available. Smith's $3.5 million hit raises the total investment to over 28 percent of the cap. The next closest team is the Jets at 24.6 percent.
Loadholt took a pay cut to stay with the team this season, but given his injury, seems unlikely to come away with the right tackle job. Boone and Smith, guard Brandon Fusco (or Michael Harris), returning center John Sullivan (missed last season after knee surgery), and left tackle Matt Kalil seem like the likely starters at this point. It's still not a top-flight offensive line, but it should be a sizable improvement over last year.
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