Brett Jones decided to look around, but ultimately decided to stay in Minnesota.
The Vikings announced they had re-signed the veteran center, who was acquired in a trade with the Giants last August.
Jones was more of a priority after they lost center Nick Easton to the Saints, but Jones had some other interest out there.
He started three games for the Vikings last year, and adds some interior depth to a team that still needs some help up front.
They released former guard Mike Remmers and replaced him with former Titans guard Josh Kline, and could easily justify more moves to add help to their line.
EAGAN, Minn. — Going into this week’s NFL draft, Kirk Cousins doesn’t seem too concerned about the Vikings’ offensive line.
Yes, Cousins played behind a line that last season allowed more quarterback pressures than any team in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus. But he said during spring drills last week that he likes the linemen on the roster as the team begins preparations for the 2019 season.
“We’ve done very, very well with five linemen playing for us who are in this building today,” Cousins said about portions of last season. “So, my point is we can win and we play at a very high level with the best we have in our building right now. And if we solidify that group with more people, so be it.”
The Vikings are expected to take an offensive lineman high in the draft, which runs Thursday through Saturday in Nashville, Tenn. But it sounds as if Cousins wouldn’t be too upset if they don’t use their first-round pick on one.
Barring a trade, the Vikings will select No. 18 Thursday. If all the blockers they really like are off the board then, it’s not out of the question they could select a tight end or defensive lineman and then grab an offensive lineman in the second round.
The five linemen Cousins spoke about who are still around from last season are tackles Riley Reiff, Brian O’Neill and Rashod Hill, and centers Pat Elflein and Brett Jones. The Vikings added guards Josh Kline and Dakota Dozier in free agency over the past couple of months.
They also enter the season with a new offensive line coach, Rick Dennison. The Vikings’ linemen were disrupted when Tony Sparano died just before the start of training camp and was replaced by co-offensive line coaches Clancy Barone and Andrew Janocko. Barone was not brought back, but Janocko was retained with the same title.
Put it all together, and the question is: Are the Vikings willing to draft someone other than an offensive lineman in the first round?
“That’s a legitimate pressure from the outside world (to take an offensive lineman),” said Charles Davis, an NFL Network draft analyst and Fox game analyst. “But I think there’s even more pressure to not reach for a guy you don’t believe in just to satisfy the fact that you picked an offensive lineman this year. If that guy’s not there, if you don’t believe in that player with the first-round pick, I’m still of the opinion you go elsewhere.”
Whether that happens obviously depends on how the draft unfolds. Will there be a run on offensive linemen? And, if so, would Vikings look to trade up?
The Vikings will watch with interest what happens with Iowa tight ends E.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant. With tight end Kyle Rudolph entering the final year of his contract, then mentioning last week that he hasn’t been offered an extension, there is a need at that spot.
“Tight end might be another place where you can increase the running game with better blocking, and if the Hockenson kid from Iowa fell to 18, I think the Vikings might run to it,” Davis said.
Hockenson, considered by most to be the top tight end in the draft, can catch as well as block. He had 49 receptions for 760 yards last season.
Meanwhile, his teammate is the second-rated tight end. Fant, who caught 39 passes for 519 yards, could be a better receiver than Hockenson, but he’s not nearly as good a blocker.
“At one point in one of my mocks, I did have Noah Fant going to the Vikings,” draft analyst Dane Brugler said. “It’s funny, whenever I have a non-offensive lineman going to the Vikings, I hear from Minnesota fans just saying, ‘It has to be an offensive lineman.’ But those two Iowa tight ends are certainly interesting if (the Vikings) get wiped out on the offensive linemen they like.”
Problem is, both of those tight ends also could be gone by No. 18. That could leave a third option: a defensive lineman.
Shamar Stephen is in line to replace the departed Sheldon Richardson at three-technique defensive tackle, but the Vikings might be able to do better. And with Everson Griffen taking a pay cut and turning 32 in December, he could be gone after 2019.
“It’s a strong defensive line class,” Brugler said. “Christian Wilkins of Clemson could fit the bill as a Sheldon Richardson replacement. I could see him falling to 18.”
Wilkins isn’t the only Clemson defensive lineman the Vikings will be looking at closely if they decide not to take an offensive lineman. Others who could be enticing if still on the board are edge rusher Clelin Ferrell and defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence.