FA Fits, Pt. II: David Andrews and Improving Minnesota’s Sieve of an Offensive Line
Mike Zimmer commonly talks about his desire to get his five best offensive linemen on the field. It’s a strategy with some obvious benefits and drawbacks. On the one hand, it’s generally a good idea to play the best players. On the other hand, sometimes Zimmer’s strategy leads to players being asked to play positions that are quite different from what they’re accustomed to.
Ezra Cleveland, for instance, was welcomed to the NFL by taking on Grady Jarrett when he lined up as Minnesota’s starting right guard in Week 6. It was a rough start to his NFL career, but it’s hard to really blame him. After all, Cleveland was a college left tackle. It’s safe to say that Cleveland’s experience didn’t really prep him for that Week 6 matchup.
Cleveland’s situation is a bit of a radical example. When the Vikings moved Pat Elflein from center to guard a few seasons back, it made some sense. There was even some optimism that Elflein could improve. Playing guard requires less mental processing before the snap and there can be greater focus on simply executing the block. For this reason, it can sometimes make sense to shift around players within the interior.
Why subject you, noble reader, to this long preamble? It’s a good question. This iteration of our Free Agent Fits looks at New England center David Andrews. We recently highlighted him as a potential value option for our Vikings, so let’s take a few moments here to discuss Andrews a little more.
The Fit Between David Andrews and the Minnesota Vikings
In the most recent Moron’s Guide to Football article, there was some discussion of just how bad Minnesota’s iOL was last season. The Dakota Dozier – Garrett Bradbury – Ezra Cleveland interior was overwhelmed in pass protection on a regular basis. All three were among the worst in the NFL in 2020 in terms of pressure rate. How can the Vikings make meaningful improvement?
As you can see here, Vikings LG Dakota Dozier has come free on the blitz and is about to get his first career sack on Vikings QB Kirk Cousins, truly masterful play design pic.twitter.com/ds8IVuH26B
— Optimistic Heat Fan (10-14) (@Mireclops) January 3, 2021
The most obvious answer is the simplest one: improve the personnel. Folks, there’s a reason why the saying is “it’s about the Jimmies and the Joes not the X’s and the O’s.” The reason, quite evidently, is because having good players is the most important thing. Coaching is important, and it can often make a massive difference. That being said, the Vikings need to search for a talent infusion along the iOL.
In all likelihood, Minnesota will look to keep Bradbury at center. He did make some improvement, and the hope is almost certainly that he will continue to ascend. Ideally, he will become one of football’s preeminent centers. To do so, Bradbury needs more help from his guards.
I can’t get over the #Vikings’ first possession and how much it sums up their season.
* 1st down: Dozier gets bullied, three Bears DL converge at Cousins for a sack* 2nd and 16: Run up the middle for no gain* 3rd and 16: Another run* Punt. Bears scored a TD five plays later pic.twitter.com/6ep67wGxns
— Will Ragatz (@WillRagatz) December 21, 2020
David Andrews is an intriguing option. Sports writers who cover the Patriots are advocating for New England to bring Andrews back. Writers (except when they’re voting for OROY, apparently) have a pretty good sense of the league’s strong players. Andrews is one of these players.
True, Andrews would need to change positions, and that might be a tough sell. If he is open to this, though, Minnesota should be interested. He is PFF’s 68th free agent. This is what they have to say about Andrews:
“After missing the 2019 season, Andrews bounced back to grade out at 67.7 in 2020, good for 16th among centers. He has now ranked in the top 16 in his past three full seasons, doing his best work in pass protection. He ranks in the 87th percentile in pass-blocking grade on true pass sets since 2015. He did take a step back in that department, posting a career-low 56.4 pass-blocking grade in 2020. In the run game, Andrews has one of the lowest negatively graded play percentages in the league, and that dependability should be valued among a thin group of centers.”
When you think of Minnesota’s iOL, how often do the words “top,” “best work in pass protection,” and “dependability” arise? Personally, I’m usually coming up with words that mean the exact opposite. Also, in case you haven’t heard, the Vikings want their o-linemen to be able to run block. It just so happens that Andrews can do this at a high level.
PFF goes on to predict a modest $6 million per year salary. Even our Vikings could afford that deal (after making a few moves, of course). The benefit of adding Andrews goes beyond just solidifying one position. Remember our old friend Ezra Cleveland? Well, perhaps he could actually transition to his natural position if Minnesota had legitimate options at guard. A two-for-one deal.
Ideally, the Minnesota Vikings will get themselves to a point where they don’t need to reach for someone in the draft, and adding David Andrews could be part of this equation. Solidifying the o-line and then several other positions through reasonable options in FA means that Minnesota could truly choose the best player available. For this reason, nailing free agency is of the utmost importance. Without the benefit of oodles and oodles of cash, Minnesota will need to be smart with how they divvy up their money. Andrews might be the perfect fit.
Editor’s Note: This is the second installment of TVG’s Free Agent Fits Extravaganza. Be sure to check back, follow us on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe so you don’t miss any great content.