Monday Morning Mailbag: Options For The O-Line, Draft Philosophy, More

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Do you see the Vikings using more of this year’s draft capital on offense or defense? Skol!
-- Bill Dunn

I can see how the re-signing of Anthony Barr and the signing of Shamar Stephen on defense along with the Vikings needs at offensive line and the strength of this draft class at that position as well as at tight end might lead one to assume the Vikings will go heavy on offense in the draft. And they may well end up doing that. But the reason this is a hard question to answer accurately right now is that the Vikings won’t predetermine how many of their picks they’ll use on each side of the ball. So if the folks running the draft don’t know, there’s no way for any of us to know. Also, I know GM Rick Spielman well enough to understand that, needs aside, if the best player on the board when the Vikings are on the clock is a defensive player, the Vikings are taking that defensive player.

Based on what has happened in free agency, we can safely assume there will be a focus on the offensive line in the draft. However, what are the thoughts on the guys we have on the practice squad that could become factors? We currently have Cornelius Edison and Storm Norton, whom I remember seeing in pre-season last summer and I remember Edison actually doing a good job at center. I’m hoping there is some development in those prospects to give us some confidence.
-- Martin Monnard
Lausanne, Switzerland

As we’ve addressed in the last few Mailbags, player development is a key and often times under-discussed avenue of roster management. New additions such as draft picks and recently-signed Josh Kline figure to help the Vikings improve their production along the offensive line, but I would not rule out the returning players on the roster, including but not limited to Aviante Collins, Edison and Norton. The Vikings have some fresh faces on the offensive coaching staff, including in the offensive line meeting room, so anyone who is held over from last season will have earned that spot despite new eyes doing some of the evaluating.

Can you explain how contract incentives work? I know we are running low on cap space but I see contracts with large incentives. Do incentives not count against cap space? Thanks! Skol!
-- Jerry Provost

Incentives are categorized one of two ways – likely to be earned or unlikely to be earned. If the player achieved that statistical threshold the previous season, then it’s a LTBE incentive. If that player did not achieve that threshold the season prior, then it’s a NLTBE incentive. For cap accounting purposes, LTBE incentives are counted against the current year’s cap, whereas NLTBE incentives are not counted against the cap and will be applied to the following year’s cap if they are earned. Also, if a LTBE incentive is not earned, then the Club receives a credit for the following year's cap.

Is it realistic to think that both offensive guards and the kicker will be rookies? If so, I’m not too optimistic about next season. Indy picked two offensive linemen last year and they became starters, but they had higher selections than we’ll have this year.
-- Cory N.
Green Bay, WI

Sure, it’s realistic. It’s also possible veterans will win those jobs. The bottom line is it’s very unlikely you’ll have a productive returning veteran at every spot on your roster. In this League, with the salary cap the way it is and with teams getting smarter and smarter at building rosters, you’re going to have to get by and win with inexperienced players, including rookies. Remember, the Philadelphia Eagles made their run to Super Bowl 52 with a rookie kicker – Jake Elliott. That same season, the Vikings reached the NFC title game with a rookie center. The New England Patriots featured Joe Thuney at guard as a rookie on the way to Super Bowl LI. Those are just three examples off the top of my head without doing research, and I’m sure there are plenty more examples of teams winning at a high level with rookies in the starting lineup.

Given the lack of cap space and the number of team needs, I think Rick Spielman has done a fine job putting together the 2019 Vikings. The defense is set with some extra depth. The offense needs linemen but Rick isn't getting over-excited and making mistakes by over-paying a veteran. I think most other concerns will be addressed in the draft. Here's to a great 2019! Skol!
-- Mike Smith
Mora, MN

Well-stated. And the roster-building process is far from over. Spielman says regularly that building a roster is a never-ending job. While much of the core of the roster appears to be in place, there is still the draft plus the offseason program to get through before the team enters 2019 training camp. All things considered, the Vikings have indeed done a great job of assembling a lot of talent and finding ways to keep a young, productive core of players together.

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