Ever since the Super Bowl ended, the talk of the Vikings immediately turned to free agency. The most popular debate was who would be the Vikings quarterback. Would it be somebody on the roster already or would the team bring in a new quarterback for 2018? The free agent options have already gotten smaller with Alex Smith becoming a member of the Redskins and the 49ers locking up Jimmy Garoppolo for the long term.
However, the free agent the Vikings should break the bank for is no other than All-Pro guard Andrew Norwell. I know some fans want to spend big money on somebody such as Kirk Cousins or Sheldon Richardson. But Norwell is the answer for Minnesota. First of all, he plays a position the Vikings need to improve. The offensive line took a giant step forward this season, finding the center and left tackle for the future. But the guard position really fell apart. Nick Easton went down with injury late in the season and the line never looked the same. Easton’s return will help sure things up a little. Still, there are rumors that Joe Berger is retiring, making Norwell a huge need.
When you look at the pedigree of Norwell, there is a lot Rick Spielman will like about him. First, he is an Ohio State product, a team that Spielman has connections with due to his brother Chris’ time there. Next, Norwell is 26-years-old and coming off his rookie deal. Spielman notoriously loves to target young players coming off their first contract. Lastly, Norwell is an All-Pro and has been one of the best linemen in football the last two seasons.
Norwell is an absolute mauler of a linemen and something the Vikings need. They have a lot of guys that can play in space, but no one with true nasty factor on the inside like Norwell has. Carolina’s offense ran a ton of screen passes this season and Norwell showed he could pull and play in space. With an athletic offensive line like the Vikings have, a linemen being able to play in space is important to their scheme.
When looking at the free agent market, it is extremely thin for offensive linemen. That makes Norwell even more of a commodity. In terms of what his market may be, last season, Kevin Zeitler got five years for $60 million as a guard. Zeitler is a great player in his own right, but Norwell is on a different level. If Zeitler got $12 million on average, it would be reasonable to see Norwell get close to $15 million per year.
Over the years, Spielman has not gone after the top-tier free agents with crazy-money deals. He has been more of a tier-two or three guy that capitalizes on good players when the market settles down. However, if there is an impact player the Vikings want to add, Spielman has shown to be aggressive. Offers to Alshon Jeffrey and Kelechi Osemele in the past few seasons prove that. Just last year, Spielman and the Vikings spent heavy for Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers on the offensive line.
With $57 million in cap space for the start of free agency in March, the Vikings are sitting pretty. They have the ability to really go after any high free agent target of their choosing this offseason. Of course, there are some very important pieces on the team they seem to be interested in resigning between now and next year. So how much the Vikings spend this offseason will be telling. But, if the Vikings decide to go all-in and sign a marquee free agent, the answer is clear. Sign Andrew Norwell and let him be one of the last pieces to fixing the offensive line. The Vikings saw first hand from teams like the Eagles that a dominant offensive line can carry you in the playoffs.
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