Vikings bolster offensive line with free-agent tackle Reiff
MINNEAPOLIS -- Riley Reiff grew up with Minnesota Vikings games on the family television every fall weekend across the state line in South Dakota. Then he entered the NFL with the Detroit Lions and played against them twice per season.
When Reiff became a free agent for the first time, the Vikings were a natural fit. The feeling was mutual for a team embarking on another rebuild for an offensive line that fell apart last year.
"I love playing in the black-and-blue division," Reiff said.
The Vikings finalized their contract with Reiff on Friday, while they also hosted a visit by another free agent tackle, Mike Remmers, formerly of the Carolina Panthers.
Left or right side doesn't matter much in March. The Vikings simply needed to start upgrading the depth chart.
"I'll do whatever the coaches ask. I came from a good system at Iowa, and they taught us to be ready at any position," said Reiff, who was a first-round draft pick (23rd overall) by the Lions in 2012. "I'm just excited to be here and ready to meet the guys and get to work."
The 6-foot-6, 305-pound Reiff played in 78 of a possible 82 games with the Lions. He was their left tackle until last season, when they drafted Taylor Decker in the first round (16th overall) and moved Reiff to the right side.
With left guard Alex Boone and center Joe Berger, who could also play at right guard if third-year center Nick Easton is deemed ready to take over as the full-time center, the Vikings have a couple of keepers from last year's disarray when 12 different players saw regular-season action among the five spots and eight unique starting lineups were employed. Those numbers became as ubiquitous in the analysis of 2016 as the 5-0 start that ended in an 8-8 finish.
With left tackle Matt Kalil departed for the Panthers and Jake Long and Andre Smith past-their-prime free agents coming off significant injuries, the Vikings are starting over at two of their most important positions on the offense. T.J. Clemmings, whose pass-blocking struggles while moving back and forth between the two spots epitomized the group's performance, will be back along with Rashod Hill to compete for roles.
Remmers was actually on Minnesota's roster for the last part of the 2013 season, before moving to Carolina and becoming a full-time starter for the first time in 2015 while the Panthers reached the Super Bowl.
Reiff acknowledged his favorite team as a youth was the Oakland Raiders, following his father's allegiance instead of his mother's devotion to the nearby Vikings. The mail carrier who covered their home in Parkston, South Dakota, was a Raiders fan, too, often lingering during deliveries to regale Reiff about the silver and black.
Chad Greenway, the recently retired Vikings linebacker who also played at Iowa, grew up in Mount Vernon about a half-hour drive from Parkston. They've been in touch over the years by virtue of their common interests, and Greenway checked in with a congratulatory message on Thursday when word of the deal with the Vikings first emerged.
South Dakota pride, allegiance to the Iowa Hawkeyes and now playing for the Vikings. They've got plenty to get behind together.
Oh, and there was one more allure for Reiff about playing for Minnesota.
"I'm excited," he said, "about the hunting and fishing here, too."