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The job of rebuilding Vikings offensive line is underway; SD native Reiff acquired

Detroit Lions offensive tackle Riley Reiff during the Sept. 25 game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Jeff Hanisch / USA TODAY Sports

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The rebuilding of the Vikings’ offensive line has begun.

On the first day of free agency, Minnesota on Thursday reached an agreement to sign tackle Riley Reiff away from Detroit. That came hours after starting left tackle Matt Kalil had bolted to Carolina on a five-year, $55.5 million deal to join his brother, Panthers center Ryan Kalil.

Kalil, who was offered a deal to remain with the Vikings, was the last remaining starting offensive lineman from when Adrian Peterson ran for 2,097 yards in 2012. The others had been John Sullivan, Phil Loadholt, Charlie Johnson and Brandon Fusco, who was released last month.

There is still plenty of work to do. But Fox television analyst Chris Spielman, the brother of Vikings general manager Rick Spielman who also works Lions preseason games, said getting Reiff, 28, is a good start for Minnesota.

“He’s consistent and solid,’’ he said. “I know that Riley has always been held in high regard. He’s a really good player. … You know what he’s going to give you, week in, week out.’’

Contract terms were not immediately available for Reiff, a native of Parkston, S.D., and it’s not fully clear if he will play the left or right side. He was the Lions’ left tackle from when he taken out of Iowa in the first round in 2012 through 2015 before moving to right tackle last year when Detroit drafted Taylor Decker.

The Vikings had looked to sign a definite left tackle, and still could do so. A top target had been free agent Russell Okung, but he elected instead to join the Los Angeles Chargers.

“He can play both (tackle spots),” Chris Spielman said of Reiff. “As the Vikings learned last year, that’s a valuable asset.”

The Vikings were devastated on the line by injuries, and are looking in free agency and the draft to really bulk it up. Along with Reilly, the only sure-fire starters who look to be in place now for 2017 are left guard Alex Boone and Joe Berger, who could play center or right guard.

Reiff was the only player to agree Thursday to join the Vikings, but they lost three free agents. In addition to Kalil departing, punter Jeff Locke left for a two-year, $3.45 million contract with Indianapolis and tight end Rhett Ellison went to the New York Giants on a four-year, $18 million deal.

The Vikings made Locke an offer, but he had not been a high commitment to bring back since they signed punter Taylor Symmank in January. Ellison was expendable since the Vikings have a top-notch starter in Kyle Rudolph and David Morgan showed promise last year as a rookie.

NFL Media reported that the Vikings were in the mix to sign Chicago free-agent wide receiver Alshon Jeffery until he decided to go to Philadelphia on a one-year, $14 million deal.

The Vikings also might have lost a receiver Thursday. They elected not to give Charles Johnson a tender, making him an unrestricted free agent after he had been restricted.

The lowest tender would have been for $1.797 million for 2017, three times the $600,000 Johnson made in 2016. The Vikings, though, still could re-sign him to lesser deal.

Money also might have played a role in Minnesota not bringing back Kalil, whose contract includes $25 million guaranteed. The Vikings likely needed Kalil take a pay cut from the $11.096 million he made last season, when he was lost after two games because of hip surgery. Kalil’s average salary over five years with Carolina is nearly identical to his 2016 figure.

Kalil made the Pro Bowl as a rookie in 2012, but was inconsistent after that. Injuries were one reason. But Rick Spielman has said Kalil was very impressive in training camp last season before he was hurt in an August practice.

“Playing with his brother, it’s going to help him,’’ Chris Spielman said. “So when he’s on and he’s healthy, he’s pretty good.’’

The St. Paul Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service
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