They say let your play do the talking, and throughout recent history, the Minnesota Vikings’ offensive line play has said they are among the worst in the league. The Vikings neglected its offensive line for well over a decade. They have not drafted an offensive lineman in the first round since taking Matt Kalil fourth overall in 2012.
Over the last few seasons, we have seen Minnesota address depth at multiple positions, including corner, defensive lineman, linebacker and running back. However, they have yet to make a concerted effort to protect Kirk Cousins since signing him.
After releasing Riley Reiff on March 10 to get under the cap and signing Dalvin Tomlinson and Patrick Peterson, they are left with $7,458,040 in cap space, according to overthecap.com. They have enough room to bolster the offensive line through a potential trade for another team’s starter or by signing an impact veteran. They could trade for Baltimore’s Orlando Brown Jr., but the cap space and assets required make that less than likely at this point.
If they go the free agency route, the most logical signing would be tackle Mitchell Schwartz, who was released on March 11 after spending the last five seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs. A back injury limited him to six games last year, but he underwent successful back surgery in the offseason and should be ready by Week 1 this season.
He would be an upgrade over the departing Reiff. Schwartz, 31, has been one of the best offensive tackles in the league for close to a decade. Since the Cleveland Browns took him in the second round of the 2012 draft, Schwartz has never posted a PFF grade lower than 72.0. To put that into perspective, last season, the only Vikings lineman who posted a PFF grade higher than 72.0 was Brian O’Neill (78.0). Last year, PFF ranked Minnesota’s offensive line 26th overall and 28th in pass blocking.
Schwartz has carried an $8 million cap hit the past two seasons, but he may be more affordable coming off surgery and entering his age-32 season. He should be willing to sign a one- or two-year deal to prove that he is still a starter in the NFL, and that’s all the Vikings could offer him, given their cap situation.
If he signs with Minnesota, Schwartz would almost certainly move from right to left tackle to protect Cousins’ blindside. Schwartz has made an All-Pro team every year from 2016-19 and should bring consistency and prowess to one of the younger offensive lines in the league.
He also brings with him a championship pedigree. Since he signed with the Chiefs in 2016, they have been the winningest team in the league, winning 60 of 80 games (.750 win percentage). Schwartz has been a part of a team that has made it over the hump and had success in the playoffs.
But even Patrick Mahomes struggled behind a depleted offensive line last year. Signing Schwartz would allow the Vikings to maximize their current roster, boosting Cousins’ performance and maximizing the investment they made in him.
While Minnesota isn’t the only team searching for a veteran offensive lineman, considering the free agent prospects and their lack of assets to trade for Brown, signing Schwartz feels like a win-win option to start building a good offensive line. It would allow them to move their current offensive linemen into spots where they are a better fit and create depth in case of injury.
There are plenty of players left in free agency, but Schwartz is the best fit for the Vikings.