Vikings to Hit Free Agent Market for Answers

Vikings to Hit Free Agent Market for Answers
Kwesi Adofo-Mensah

When it snows, it avalanches, and an offensive line malady currently besets the Minnesota Vikings.

Right tackle Brian O’Neill and backup center Austin Schlottmann were injured on Sunday at the Green Bay Packers, and both men appear to be on the shelf for the long haul. Schlottmann, for certain, is out with a broken fibula, while the Vikings don’t sound optimistic — at all — about O’Neill’s injury.

Vikings to Hit Free Agent Market for Answers

And that’s on top of injuries to center Garrett Bradbury and reservist tackle Blake Brandel. All of a sudden, the Vikings may have reached panic territory regarding the offensive trenches.

Vikings to Hit Free Agent
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

According to Pro Football Focus, Minnesota ranked 10th leaguewide heading into Week 17 per offensive line grade. So, for a group that historically struggled from 2014 to 2021, offensive line operations improved moderately in 2022 with a new offense-first coaching staff. Now, that same coaching staff faces a stiffer challenge, tasked with making Oli Udoh, Chris Reed, Vederian Lowe, or Josh Sokol (from the practice squad) starting-caliber players or at least serviceable assets.

Regardless of how those men perform, head coach Kevin O’Connell implied Monday that the Vikings would seek free-agent help for the now-skimpy offensive trenches.‘s Will Ragatz tweeted, “Kevin O’Connell indicated that the Vikings will likely be looking to add an offensive lineman or two soon.”

New Injuries and Futility
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

Of course, O’Neill is irreplaceable. He was a Pro Bowler in 2021 and is undebatably one of the NFL’s top right tackles. The aforementioned Udoh has a mighty assignment afoot to fill in for the five-year veteran. As for center, well, Chris Reed may just need time to acclimate to life as a starting center, as his previous experience is at offensive guard.

For free agents, options are naturally slim pickings, with the NFL regular season ending this weekend. The Vikings could explore these names and seem to be headed in that direction per the Ragatz tweet:

  • Rashod Hill
  • Bobby Massie
  • Timon Parris
  • Nate Solder
  • Daryl Williams

Hill is wildly familiar to Minnesota, employed by the Mike Zimmer-led Vikings from 2016 to 2021. He played 74 games for the Vikings and should be classified as the odds-on favorite to return.

Rashod Hill
Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports,

Parris is a relative unknown but was employed by the Vikings in the summer of 2022. Because he was in the mix for the Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and O’Connell Vikings, Parris could entertain a Vikings sequel.

The other three — Massie, Solder, and Williams — are journeyman veterans marinating on the free-agent wire. At best, they could serve as backups to the backups, which is why they live on the open market in Week 18.

Minnesota plays a somewhat meaningless game this weekend at the Chicago Bears but must formulate a no-O’Neill and possibly-no-Bradbury contingency plan in time for Round 1 of the playoffs. The Vikings are likely to face the New York Giants, a team known for a bonanza of blitz packages.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).