Brian O’Neill Deserves a Sizeable Extension
Under normal circumstances, our Minnesota Vikings would be looking to extend their top players at some point before training camp. Well, training camp is a little less than two months away. The Covid world is far from normal, but that doesn’t mean Minnesota will deviate from their usual approach. The Vikings have a large cash infusion on the horizon, so they ought to be working toward extending key young players. Personally, my hope is that the Vikings make it a top priority to give RT Brian O’Neill a sizeable extension.
O’Neill was taken in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Many people believed that it would take a while before he saw the field, but he actually played a lot as a rookie. He was on the field for 76% of the offensive snaps during his rookie season, which is a number that has increased as he has continued to improve. Last year, O’Neill played 99% of Minnesota’s offensive snaps.
O’Neill has made sizeable improvements throughout his career. His PFF score has gone from 63.0 to 70.8 to 78.0. If he continues at this pace, O’Neill’s score will be somewhere in the mid-80s in the upcoming season. A mid-80s score is good for top-10 overall among offensive tackles. Of course, nothing is guaranteed. O’Neill will need to keep improving, especially in pass pro. That said, the trend is easy to see, and there’s really no reason to believe that he has already reached his ceiling.
The 26-year-old O’Neill is set to make a mere $2.7 million in the final year of his rookie deal. It’s a minuscule number for high-end offensive tackles. In fact, Over the Cap suggests that it’s the 48th biggest contract out of a 105 right tackles. In other words, Brian O’Neill is currently playing for well below market value, so he’ll almost certainly be looking for a sizeable extension before training camp begins.
What would it cost to get a deal done? Well, it’s tough to say, but there are some tools out there to help us out.
Spotrac suggests that O’Neill deserves a four-year deal that averages $7.6 million. Frankly, that number is going to be too low. That deal would only rank 31st among all tackle contracts, a reality that is not good enough for O’Neill. He has the potential to be a top-15 OT, and wise teams pay a player for who they’ll become not who they have been or currently are. Mind you, Spielman will likely be trying for a relatively low number, but anything less than $8 or $9 million per year will be a surprise.
A year before O’Neill was drafted, Minnesota signed Riley Reiff to a deal that averaged nearly $12 million per season. I know that LTs tend to get more money, but it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see O’Neill get a similar number, especially since the 2022 salary cap is looking more plentiful. At this stage, my best bet is a deal around 4 years and $40-$44 million overall.
Minnesota really isn’t in a position to get cute when it comes to the offensive line. I know there is optimism about several of the young linemen, but O’Neill is a proven player (who is still ascending). My hope is that Spielman & Friends make it a top priority to ensure he is a Viking for a long, long time.