Heading into this offseason, the Minnesota Vikings knew they needed an upgrade at left guard. For years, Charlie Johnson had been underwhelming as the starter, and his departure signified an opportunity for change.
Even though the Vikings brought back Johnson on a cheap, two-year deal, the team might not be ready to settle with him as the starter again in 2014. One option for upgrading could be acquiring Philadelphia Eagles guard Evan Mathis, who is apparently on the trading block.
Why can Evan Mathis be had via trade? At 32, he’s due $5.15M in salary in 2014, but he wants a new deal after breakout season, source says.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 26, 2014
While the 32-year-old Mathis is certainly towards the backend of his NFL career, there’s no denying he can be a dominant guard for the Vikings. He’s coming off a huge season in 2013 during which he graded out as the best guard in the NFL, finishing with a 46.7 rating according to Pro Football Focus. While Mathis was average as a pass protector, his impact as a run blocker was substantially larger than any other offensive lineman throughout the league.
The Vikings also currently have the cap room to absorb Mathis’ $5 million hit in 2014.
According to reports, the Eagles are seeking a third- or fourth-round pick for Mathis. The Vikings have two third-round picks and one fourth-rounder available heading into the 2014 NFL Draft. In all honestly, Minnesota would have a tough time finding as dominant of a guard as Mathis with any of those picks.
While it might seem like a steep price for an aging veteran, his potential impact can’t be understated. Especially in an offense that revolves around superhuman running back Adrian Peterson, having a road grader like Mathis at guard would be a huge asset. Steep as it may seem, dishing out their late third-round pick for Mathis isn’t crazy.
It’s little more than speculation at this point, but that doesn’t mean that the Vikings shouldn’t at least kick around the idea of trading for Mathis. He’d be an immediate upgrade to their offensive line, and would keep the unreliable Johnson out of the starting lineup. Plus, we all know recently-signed Vlad Ducasse isn’t going to be a difference-maker this season.
We’ll see if anything comes of this leading up to the draft in May.