With news surfacing Thursday that guard Nick Easton will likely miss the remainder of the season due to a serious neck operation, the Vikings may look to add some depth to the banged up offensive line.
Berger, who was in Minnesota a couple of weeks ago to attend the funeral of the late Tony Sparano, spoke with Dan Barreiro of KFAN radio about his decision to retire after the 2017 season. Berger said that while Vikings made him a fair offer in free agency, he had already made up his mind.
“At some point you know when you’re wore out. I could give them one last year, but it wouldn’t have been what they deserved,” said Berger.
“No, I’m not too worried about it. I’ve spent the last four months doing construction work building a garage and sitting in an RV, so the thought of getting back out there and playing with Linval [Joseph] —Linval would snap me in half the first practice. So, I’ll pass on that and I’ll enjoy seeing it from this side of the field.”
A few days later, he spoke with Tomasson at the TCO Performance Center in Eagan.
“I don’t miss it, I honestly don’t,’’ Berger said. “Once I made the decision, I’ve been at peace, and I haven’t second-guessed it since. It was great while it lasted.”
So, it certainly appears as though the Vikings have a definitive answer from Berger. And while it may be a little too early to panic about the state of the offensive line, it’s not necessarily easy to replace a starter, especially when two additional starters, Elflein and Mike Remmers, are also nursing injuries.
It clearly wouldn’t hurt the team to prepare in case another lineman goes down. So, what are the Vikings options at this point?
Tom Compton: The offseason free agent pickup is capable of playing multiple positions and has been deemed the most likely replacement for Easton.
It looks like Rosemount native Tom Compton will move in to start at left guard to replace Nick Easton on the #Vikings. Compton is very capable.
— Chris Tomasson (@christomasson) August 9, 2018
Outside of the starters, Compton has the most experience of any Vikings offensive lineman. He started five games for Chicago last season and earned a 57.7 Pro Football Focus grade. Compton is a versatile player and has looked solid in camp, but the 29 year-old has only started 16 games in his six-year NFL career.
Aviante Collins: The second-year man received an opportunity to play guard in training camp and he has taken advantage of it. On Thursday, head coach Mike Zimmer said the following of Collins development, “AC is very athletic. Big guy, has some power, good feet, has some nasty streak.”
Aviante Collins has improved massively. Has been winning tons of reps throughout camp in one on ones and in eleven. Played both guard spots and tackle and winning against second and first team DLs
— Arif Hasan (@ArifHasanNFL) August 8, 2018
Collins fits the description of what the Vikings are looking for in an offensive lineman. Don’t be surprised if the 25 year-old is given a few more opportunities this preseason to showcase his talent.
Danny Isidora: Isidora has been filing in at right guard in Remmer’s absence. With the loss of Easton, Isidora is now the main competition for Compton at left guard once Remmers returns. He still has things to work on, but at 24 years old the 2017 5th-round pick could be seen as more of a long-term solution at guard. Last year he played in seven games as a rookie. He started once (Week 8 vs. CLE) and had a 43.4 PFF grade on the season. Behind Isidora and Collins on the depth chart are Josh Andrews, Colby Gossett, and Cedrick Lang.
Cornelius Edison: The 25 year-old center has been receiving praise from coaches for his performance in training camp. While it’s unlikely he would be a candidate to fill in at guard, he may now be the top choice to take over Easton’s role as backup center behind Elflein.
Joe Berger: He was discussed at length above, but there’s always a chance he has a change of heart. It sounds very unlikely, but at this point the Vikings would gladly welcome back Berger. He had a PFF grade of 74.0 in 16 starts last season.
Jahri Evans: Like Berger, Evans is an experienced NFL guard. After playing 11 seasons in New Orleans, Evans started 14 games for the Packers last season, earning a 70.4 PFF grade. While he’s had a prolific career, he’s not the athlete he once was. The Vikings are looking for “mobile” linemen that are able to move the pocket laterally. Evans will be 35 years old when the season begins.
Luke Joeckel: Joeckel, the number two overall pick in the 2013 draft, began his career as a left tackle but was moved to left guard. He earned a respectable PFF grade (58.7) in Seattle last season but was hampered by a mid-season knee operation that caused him to miss 5 games. He may still be young but injury concerns are a major factor with the 26 year-old.
Richie Incognito: Incognito may have been the best option for the Vikings if it weren’t for his recent Twitter outburst directed at Mike Zimmer. Last year the 35 year-old proved he can still bring it, earning a 74.4 PFF rating in Buffalo, but there’s no way Minnesota brings him in after the childish antics he showed on social media. How weird would that be?
POTENTIAL TRADE TARGETS
John Jerry: Jerry is a 32 year-old right guard for the New York Giants. He was recently listed as a backup on the team’s depth chart despite starting all 16 games in five out the past six seasons. Jerry earned a 66.1 PFF grade last season which ranked him #36 among NFL guards. He particularly stood out in pass protection.
— PFF NY Giants (@PFF_Giants) August 3, 2018
Since Jerry has a cap hit of $3.6 million this season, it’s possible the Giants could try to trade the veteran or even cut him outright when rosters are trimmed down.
Chance Warmack: Warmack is another backup who could be available via trade. The 26 year-old sits behind two respected starters on the Philadelphia Eagles depth chart and has a cap hit of $2.03 million this season. In three starts last season Warmack earned a PFF grade of 61.8.
Mike Zimmer: "I know everybody's nervous about the offensive line but I like the mentality of those guys. I like how they work. I'm around them quite a bit and they're going to figure out a way to get it done. Calm. 'Tweet that.' It's my new saying."
— Sean Borman (@SeanBoarMan) August 9, 2018