Bleacher Report Recommends Veteran OL Free Agent for Vikings

Jun 11, 2019; Eagan, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman during a press conference following practice at TCO Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

Bleacher Report dropped an analysis on Friday detailing one unsigned free agent that each team should target. For example, per Bleacher Report‘s Alex Kay, the Denver Broncos would be wise to sign quarterback Alex Smith, ensuring training-camp competition for Drew Lock this summer. Or — the Dallas Cowboys ought to ink Richard Sherman to pair with youngster cornerback, Trevon Diggs.

For the Minnesota Vikings, Kay suggests that general manager Rick Spielman should make the call to veteran guard, Lane Taylor.

Taylor has played 79 games during his eight year career in the NFL — all with the Green Bay Packers.

On Taylor to Minnesota, Kay wrote:

The Vikings parted ways with one of the league’s more underrated offensive linemen when Riley Reiff joined Cincinnati in free agency. The club should not be against bringing in at least one proven player to help offset that loss this offseason. Minnesota needs to address more than just the tackle spot, so signing a player who can play multiple positions would be a huge benefit. Lane Taylor fits the bill as a versatile lineman and has been a fantastic player when healthy but is coming off a torn ACL he suffered in the 2020 season opener. Taylor started 50 games since he was drafted in 2013 and played all over the offensive line in that span, performing well regardless of where he was asked to line up. It remains to be seen if he can stay on the field—he also saw his 2019 campaign cut short because of a torn biceps muscle—but it’s worth a low-risk investment with plenty of potential reward for the Vikings.

Indeed, Taylor missed nearly all of 2020 with a torn ACL, and he didn’t play much in the season before that. All told, Taylor has missed 91% of all football games since 2019.

Taylor is pretty decent when he is on the field, though. During his last almost-full season, 2018, he registered a 66.0 Pro Football Focus grade. That would be an immediate upgrade to the left guard position as Minnesota’s guard play was miserable in 2020. Dru Samia and Dakota Dozier were among the NFL’s worst guards last season per PFF.

The alluring facet of Taylor’s tool bag is pass-blocking. Throughout his career, he has fared better with protecting Aaron Rodgers than plowing lanes for various Packers running backs. He is not bad at run blocking, but he is more of a pass-protection commodity. And the Vikings need help in this realm. PFF graded the pass-protecting wherewithal of the 2020 Vikings as fourth-worst in the NFL.

Spielman should have the money to make this happen if the organization is interested in Taylor. The Vikings have about $7.4 million in available cap space as of April 9th, and extensions for Harrison Smith and Danielle Hunter may yet be on the docket for this offseason. Taylor does not figure to be an expensive signee wherever he ends up due to his flurry of recent injuries.

The NFL draft will occur on April 29th, and several folks in the Vikings orbit believe the franchise will select a player like Christian Darrisaw (Virginia Tech), Alijah Vera-Tucker (USC), or Rashawn Slater (Northwestern) with the 14th overall pick. If that’s true and the pick is more of a left-tackle type, the 2021 offensive lineman would resemble this with Taylor on board:

(LT) Darrisaw/Slater, (LG) Lane Taylor, ( C ) Garrett Bradbury, (RG) Ezra Cleveland, (RT) Brian O’Neill.

That really doesn’t look too shabby.

If Taylor is acquired and Spielman does not choose a startable offensive lineman somewhere in the draft, it will look more like this:

(LT) Ezra Cleveland, (LG) Lane Taylor, ( C ) Garrett Bradbury, (RG) Mason Cole, (RT) Brian O’Neill.

Either of one of those hypothetical lineups is more trustworthy that the 2020 bunch.

Should Taylor, 31, join the purple side of life, he will add to the semi-lengthy list of Packers-turned-Vikings that notably includes Brett Favre, Ryan Longwell, Greg Jennings, Bryce Paup, and Darren Sharper.