DAVE CAMPBELL, AP Pro Football Writer
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Vikings forged into free agency with the offensive line as a primary focus.
Bringing in more blockers will be a priority all the way through the draft.
After letting left tackle Matt Kalil leave for Carolina on a whopping five-year contract worth as much as $55.5 million including $25 million guaranteed, the Vikings according to multiple reports reached an agreement on a deal for his replacement, Riley Reiff.
The Vikings didn’t announce any signings on Thursday when the market opened, but Reiff is the type of experienced, hard-nosed player who can immediately upgrade a group that collectively struggled throughout an 8-8 season in 2016.
Drafted in the first round with the 23rd pick by the Lions out of Iowa in 2012, Reiff played in 78 of a possible 82 games including the playoffs.
The 6-foot-6, 305-pound Reiff began his pro career as a left tackle and moved to right tackle last year after the Lions drafted Taylor Decker in the first round.
Reiff is from Parkston, South Dakota, not far from where recently retired Vikings linebacker and fellow Iowa alum Chad Greenway grew up.
After patching together their front five with 12 different players and eight unique starting lineups in 2016, the Vikings entered the offseason with an unquestioned priority on the offensive line.
Left guard Alex Boone and center Joe Berger, who’s also a possibility at right guard, are the only two returning regular starters. Without a first-round draft pick this year, their options for instant improvement are fewer.
They began free agency with nearly $38 million in salary cap space, in the middle of the pack in the league.
The Vikings were relatively quiet on Thursday, while several other top tackles in an always-tight market signed with other teams.
“I know everybody gets riled up if you don’t do something the first day of free agency, the world’s coming to an end,” general manager Rick Spielman said during a session with reporters two weeks ago.
“But I do know that this is a continuous process, that you build your roster and hopefully have most of the significant pieces in place by the end of the draft.”
Free agent running back Eddie Lacy, who is considering a return to the Green Bay Packers as well as the Seattle Seahawks, will visit the Vikings in the coming days, according to his agency on Twitter .
The interest in Lacy is yet another sign franchise leading rusher Adrian Peterson won’t return after his $18 million option for 2017 was declined to make him a free agent.
Peterson has tweeted multiple videos of his workouts in recent days, perhaps trying to remind the football world that he’s still in exemplary shape with his 32nd birthday looming later this month.
The other players who became unrestricted free agents on Thursday were running back Matt Asiata, linebacker Audie Cole, quarterback Shaun Hill, fullback Zach Line, offensive tackles Jake Long and Andre Smith, cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, wide receiver/kickoff returner Cordarrelle Patterson and defensive end Justin Trattou.
Wide receiver Adam Thielen is a restricted free agent with a second-round tender, meaning the Vikings can match any offer from another team. They did not tender a qualifying offer to restricted free agent wide receiver Charles Johnson, effectively removing him from the roster.
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