EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The 2015 Vikings were the only team in the NFL to start the same five offensive linemen in every game.
All five of those players are scheduled to return to Minnesota in 2016, but the starting five could also look different after the Vikings made a handful of moves in free agency.
According to Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman, the uncertainty is a good thing.
"If you create competition, either guys are going to rise up or get beat out," Spielman said March 10 to "The Voice of the Vikings" Paul Allen on the 9 to Noon show on KFAN 100.3-FM. "That means you got better."
Minnesota's 2015 offensive line was made up of left tackle Matt Kalil, left guard Brandon Fusco, center Joe Berger, right guard Mike Harris and right tackle T.J. Clemmings.
That lineup was formed after center John Sullivan and right tackle Phil Loadholt — both starters since 2009 — suffered season-ending injuries before the NFL's Kickoff Weekend.
The Vikings have signed a pair of free agents this month, bringing in guard Alex Boone and tackle Andre Smith.
Add it all up and each of those nine players have started a full 16-game season at least once during their career.
Smith, who signed with Minnesota last week after seven seasons in Cincinnati, said he welcomes the crowded unit and isn't going to alter his expectations.
"Come in and compete," Smith said. "They have some really good linemen there right now, and I'm just expecting to come in and compete for a starting position on the offensive line."
Spielman said the key to any successful football team is a stout offensive line, and it appears the Vikings are molding just that. Minnesota also brought in Tony Sparano as its new offensive line coach.
"I think we have some good football players up front," Spielman told Allen earlier this month. "But I also know that just like any other position, we want to continue to try and turn the roster over and try to continue to have players come in and compete.
"I think that's how we've been able to build this foundation."
Time will tell who the Vikings will trot out as their starting offensive linemen for the 2016 season, but the competition along the way should be fun to watch.
"It's going to be a great opportunity to better ourselves as men and teammates," Smith said.
View images of new Vikings OL Andre Smith from his days as a Bengal.