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Monday Morning Mailbag: Early Free Agency Evaluation

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I know myself and others are a little concerned about free agency so far. It's still early but we have lost more than we've gained. Building up the offensive line was definitely our first priority and I'm happy we have done some work there. Do you have any news that may reassure the fans that we won't be taking a step back next year? -- Nathan Riggs

I'd say the Vikings have done more than just some work to fortify the offensive line – they signed two starting offensive tackles who will be upgrades over the performance that we saw at those positions last season. Other players on the roster, such as Mackensie Alexander and David Morgan, are going to have opportunities to step up with veterans such as Captain Munnerlyn and Rhett Ellison leaving. Yes, more players have departed than have arrived in free agency, but isn't that what a team that went 8-8 the year prior should be doing? This is part of the deal in the NFL every offseason – the roster turns over. And sometimes when you had a disappointing season the prior year, than turnover is a bit more robust.

I love the fact that the Vikings signed two offensive tackles in free agency. Do you feel like we can now concentrate on other needs in the draft? -- Terrel Honolulu, HI

Yes. The signings of Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers give the Vikings the option to take a position other than an offensive linemen with their first pick of the draft (No. 48 overall). They can still take an offensive linemen in that spot if the board dictates as such, but I think now with two starting tackles signed in free agency they do have the flexibility to simply the highest-graded player on the board, regardless of position.

Do you think Eddie lacy would fit in the Vikings running game or do you think they will draft a running back? -- Tyler Deel

Yes, I think Lacy would fit in the offense otherwise I don't think the Vikings would even bring him in for a visit. He does his best work between the tackles, running downhill and perhaps even in short-yardage situations, and that makes him a good complementary piece with a runner like Jerick McKinnon, who can also run between the tackles but is particularly good on the perimeter, in space and in the passing game. With all of that said, I also think the Vikings will strongly consider drafting a running back in this year's draft to keep the position stocked with young, ascending talent.

Will Andre Smith still be in the competition for a starting job at the tackle position even though the Vikings picked up Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers? And Clemmings…any chance he could compete for the other guard spot opposite Boone? Wasn't that his position in college? -- Matt Hampton, VA

Right now, Smith is an unrestricted free agent. So there's certainly no guarantee he'll be on the roster this offseason and in a position to compete for a starting job. If he is re-signed, I'd categorize him as a compete-to-start player who could also provide some solid depth if he doesn't win a starting position. As for Clemmings, I think the one thing we know about him is he's a good athlete and he's demonstrated the ability to play multiple positions already. He was a converted defensive linemen in college, then jumped into a starting role as a rookie in 2015 and then switched sides in 2016. Long story longer, yes I think he's a candidate to kick inside to guard if the coaches want to play it that way.

Why would we let Jeff Locke go? I thought he did a great job punting for us epically last season. Would have liked to see him stay. -- Blake Dufner

What you need to remember about free agency is that the players control where they go, not the teams. That's why they are called "free" agents – they are free to go where they wish. I don't know what level of interest the Vikings had in retaining Locke, but I do know we can't assume it was none just because he signed elsewhere. It's a two-way street. In order to be able to sign a free agent, you not only need to be able to afford that player but that player also has to want to play for you.

Who starts at left tackle for the Vikings? I feel like Reiff is more of a right tackle. Could we swing a deal with Washington for Trent Williams? Or de we sign Ryan Clady to be a short term fix? -- Eddie Halvorson St. Louis Park, MN

We won't know this for sure until head coach Mike Zimmer addresses it, but one would assume that Reiff will play left tackle and Remmers will play right tackle. Reiff was actually drafted in the first round of the 2012 draft by the Detroit Lions as a left tackle and he played that position up until last season when he switched to right tackle following the Lions selection of first-rounder Taylor Decker.

What is the minimum time a team needs to wait after which they give a player an extension? After a player's rookie season, can a team extend him? -- Chris Kulak Fowler, CA Nope. A player must make it through three seasons of his rookie contract before he can be extended. Following his third season, a player and his team have a three-month window to determine if they will reach an agreement on a contract extension, exercise the fifth-year option (for first-rounders only and this is up to the team's discretion) or play out the fourth and final year of the contract.

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