The Minnesota Vikings leadership awarded Riley Reiff a handsome $1 million on Thursday. He was slated to earn the sum based on snaps-played in 2020 but was disqualified when he landed on the COVID-19 list to end the season. For a moment, it was too-bad-so-sad for the Vikings left tackle. However, ownership brandished some grace onto Reiff’s pocketbook and took care of the nine-year NFL veteran. The news was met with warm-fuzzies from Vikings faithful while the speculation began on the long-term implication of the gridiron olive branch. Why? Because Reiff is already scheduled to receive a sizable contractual figure in 2021. At $16.5 million for next season, Reiff is the third-highest-paid Viking on the roster behind Kirk Cousins and Danielle Hunter. Right before the pandemic season kicked off, Reiff graciously restructured his contract to make monetary room for defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, a player traded from the Los Angeles Chargers to the Vikings. That trade was ill-fated as Ngakoue was dealt seven weeks later to the Baltimore Ravens for a clawback draft pick. Therefore, Reiff likely won’t outright restructure again in 2021. But the team could extend his deal and backload the cash for seasons down the line when the salary cap is not ransacked by the coronavirus. All in all, Reiff will command the seventh-most cap dollars amongst 2021 tackles throughout the NFL. He will take home more money than Eric Fisher from the Kansas City Chiefs and Ronnie Staley on the Baltimore Ravens. Per Pro Football Focusin 2020, Reiff was the 37th-best tackle in the business. So, there is a large variance between earnings and performance. Should the Vikings keep Reiff or move on? Performance Says: Yes The 71.4 PFF score from 2020 is pretty good. It is not great. But there are a lot of good, serviceable tackles leaguewide. Reiff is one of them. The Vikings employ Ezra Cleveland on the depth chart – a player that made a collegiate living with Boise State at the left tackle spot. Minnesota utilized Cleveland at guard last season. His PFF grade was 66.2, a respectable mark for a rookie. For the Vikings plan at left tackle, Reiff’s output from 2020 earnestly justifies another year with the team. Minnesota’s offensive-line woes are well-documented and longstanding. Switching horses for 2021 – a season that is another win-now edition – is unwise. And Reiff’s strength is pass-blocking, which is an attribute that the team’s offensive line consistently fails to establish. On the whole, the current offensive-line group run-blocks with efficiency but lags in pass protection. Tossing aside the one lineman that pass-protects more so than he run-blocks – is strange methodology. Contract: We’ll See The cap hit is just so damn high. Reiff should be in the ballpark of the seventh-best tackle in the world based on his $16.5 million paycheck on the docket for September. He could shock the world and utterly dominate, but that is freakishly optimistic thinking. At his present cap hit and recent performance, Reiff is not worth the money. He will disagree, but management will not. And that’s likely why no credible soul believes Reiff will return to the team with his contract wholly intact. The two sides – Reiff’s camp and general manager Rick Spielman – will necessitate a compromise to continue Reiff’s employment with the Vikings. The roster will likely be without Kyle Rudolph and Anthony Harris next year. Those are stomach-churning decisions to be made before Reiff is even discussed. Reiff is worth granting a hefty sum of cash but not $16.5 million. Life Without Reiff Should Spielman backload an extension and offer it to Reiff, the team might be in business. Yet, Reiff can possibly command more cash on the open market. There is no way of knowing, as of now, how loyal Reiff is to the Vikings or vice-versa. If he is too expensive or he is jaundiced on the idea of renegotiating, Minnesota will be in a nasty spot. They will enter the decision-making portion of the offseason with only Brian O’Neill, Garrett Bradbury, and Ezra Cleveland as the nucleus of the offensive line. This can be aptly called “guard-less.” Cleveland could slide back to his natural left tackle position, and Spielman would be guard-shopping – a task that has not been too friendly to him as of late. Minnesota would be forced to find bargain-bin solutions at guard – again – or exercise the draft as the replenishment avenue. Because 2021 has high expectations, a rookie-guard forecast is greeted with skepticism. The compromise — should all parties agree — is to retain Reiff via contract extension. It will lower his 2021 cap hit and enable the Vikings to hunt for one guard – not two. Think of it this way: No-Reiff denotes a need for two unnamed linemen that will start in 2021. Life-with-Reiff creates the need for just one starter.
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