Offensive line play is worse than ever in the NFL, making top players a premium commodity in free agency. That’s why the Minnesota Vikings are making an early effort to bring back free agent guard Mike Harris. According to Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press, the Vikings have offered the 27 year-old veteran a two-year, $3.5 million contract to remain with the team through 2017.
Harris was arguably the best offensive lineman in Minnesota last year, finishing the season as Pro Football Focus’s 23rd-ranked guard. He began 2015 as a reserve right tackle, but quickly made the the transition to right guard at the start of training camp. At 6’5″ and 338 pounds, Harris isn’t a natural fit at the position, but his size and strength in the trenches was critical to the success of the run game.
This offseason, he spoke to Tomasson about his desire to return to the Vikings:
“I see myself in Minnesota for the rest of my career,” Harris said. “That’s where I want to be. So hopefully we get the contract ready this weekend. I’m excited. It’s going to be a great season for the Vikings, and I want to be a part of it.”
Originally claimed off waivers after the 2014 preseason, Harris has started 23 games for the Vikings in two seasons. He’s an above-average lineman in the NFL, and yet, Minnesota is offering him a reserve player’s contract. Spotrac lists similar figures for guards league-wide, and the proposed number puts Harris in the company of players like Alex Boone and Josh Kline.
It’s unclear why the contract offer is so low; if the team sees Harris as a reserve like Joe Berger, then all signs point to Spielman addressing the starting offensive line through free agency or the draft and keeping Harris for depth. But if Harris wants more money in 2016, he could very well test the open market on Monday.
Fortunately, that’s not something Harris wants to do, as Tomasson reports the guard is adamant about securing a deal this weekend to remain in Minnesota. Keeping Harris would solidify the line at right guard, but decisions loom on the contract situations of Phil Loadholt and Matt Kalil.