MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Vikings erased a huddle deficit Wednesday with the release of veteran left tackle Riley Reiff, the team announced.
Reiff was the first domino to fall for the Vikings this season, and his release will give the team more financial flexibility when looking for free agents. The left tackle is in trouble on the 19. In March, a $5 million bonus was locked into the contract after he agreed to a restructured deal last September. His release releases $11.75 million, leaving Minnesota $8,730,584 under the cap.
At the end of the 2020 preseason, when Minnesota acquired defenseman Yannick Ngakoue via trade, the 32-year-old took a $5 million pay cut. At that point, the Vikings had less than $1 million in cap space after the acquisition. Reiff, who will receive a $10.9 million salary in 2020, is over the $13.2 million cap hit.
The Vikings tried to retain Wraith with an extension that would have reduced his cap hit to $13.95 million for 2021. Instead, the tackle will enter the open market one day after two offensive linemen, Cam Robinson and Taylor Moton, received franchise tags that will pay them $14 million this season.
Reif, a former first-round pick, was drafted by Detroit in 2012 and signed as a free agent with Minnesota in 2017, switching from right-handed to left-handed. He started 62 games for the Vikings and allowed 12 sacks in four seasons.
I think Riley played very consistently last year, probably one of his best years here, and he’s so smart, so competitive, and he’s really learned over the years how to play very effectively, and he was definitely one of our most consistent offensive linemen last year, general manager Rick Spielman said last week.
Wraith’s release clears Minnesota for a left tackle. Last April, the Vikings contracted Ezra Cleveland (58th overall) from Boise State, where he played three seasons as a left back. After spending the preseason at left guard, Cleveland moved to right guard and started nine games.
Cleveland’s decision to move to left tackle before the 2021 season depends on what happens in the next few months, who’s there and who’s not, Spielman said last week. Minnesota might also consider moving right tackle Brian O’Neal to left tackle and replacing him with Cleveland. O’Neill is expected to begin discussing an extension for a 2018 second-round pick in the coming months before Minnesota’s fourth season.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Vikings rank 18th in pass blocking and allowed 39 sacks last season. While Minnesota wants to address some needs of players on the other line, improving pass protection on the other line is very important this offseason.
I think you’re always going to try to improve in that area, coach Mike Zimmer said at the end of the season. There’s no area we don’t want to improve….. I love this band. The continuity they have, the bond they have. I like this group, but we have to wait and see and if we can improve we will.
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