Brian O’Neill is trying to remain low-key about negotiations for a contract extension, but he doesn’t deny keeping a close eye on the big-money contracts that have gone lately to right tackles.
“Yeah,” he said Thursday. “I’m not going to lie to you.”
The Vikings right tackle is entering the final season of a four-year rookie contract he signed in 2018, and discussions have gotten underway for an extension that would kick in with the 2022 season.
Left tackles are generally more highly paid than right tackles, but some guys on the right side have been cashing in lately. So far this summer, New Orleans’ Ryan Ramczyk has signed a five-year, $96 million extension, and Braden Smith of Indianapolis and Taylor Moton of Carolina both got four-year, $72 million extensions.
“My focus is 100 percent on football this whole camp, this whole week,” O’Neil said of negotiations. “There’s people that handle that — the front office here, and my agent — so it’ll play itself out. I want to be here, I love it here, and we’ve got to finish what we started.”
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer is hopeful the Vikings can lock up O’Neil, a second-round pick in 2018.
“We’d love to get Brian done,” Zimmer said. “I think they’ve had conversations. I don’t know where he’s at. It’s always one side thinks one thing and one side thinks the other.”
With left tackle Riley Reiff having been released in March in a salary-related move, O’Neill is now regarded as the Vikings’ top offensive lineman. And Zimmer said he has taken more of a leadership role.
“He’s becoming more kind of what Riley was in the past,” Zimmer said. “He’s a very good athlete and he had a good year, and then there’s still things he still needs to work on as well.”
Pro Football Focus rated O’Neill as the NFL’s 24th-best tackle last season.
“I’m nowhere near where I want to be in terms of level of thinking, playing, physical, anything,” O’Neill said.
O’Neill will play this season under his fifth different offensive line coach with the Vikings. When he was drafted, the job was held by Tony Sparano, who died in July 2018. In 2018, he had co-offensive line coaches in Clancy Barone and Andrew Janocko. For the previous two years, he had Rick Dennison, who was moved this week to senior offensive advisor because of his refusal to be vaccinated, and replaced by Phil Rauscher.
“We’ve known Phil for a while, so I don’t think it’s going to be too much of a change, too much of anything different,” O’Neill said of Rauscher, who joined the team last year as assistant offensive line coach.
Zimmer said nose tackle Michael Pierce has a “slight pull” in his left calf. Pierce said he suffered the injury working out in his native Alabama three weeks before it was reported July 19 by NFL Media.
“I was doing a little bit too much of (defensive end) stuff, change of direction and all of those things,’’ Pierce said. “We’re going to peel back on that next summer.’’
Pierce was limited in the first two days of training camp but said he “should be pretty healthy soon.’’
Not practicing for the second straight day were tackle Christian Darrisaw (groin) and center Cohl Cabral (undisclosed). Cornerback Bashaud Breeland (shoulder), wide receiver Dede Westbrook (knee) and tight end Blake Zysltra (undisclosed) were limited.
Vikings cornerback Jeff Gladney, arrested in April on charge of third-degree family violence assault, had his grand jury hearing Thursday in Dallas. A Dallas County representative said it likely will be Tuesday when a decision is rendered on whether Gladney will be indicted.
Gladney was arrested April 5 for an alleged incident on April 2 involving a woman. He did not participate in Vikings’ spring drills and has not been at training camp.
Before Thursday’s workout, Zimmer said Danielle Hunter, who missed all of last season due to a neck injury, had a “really, really good day” of practice Wednesday. Hunter, a left defensive end in his first five seasons, also is getting practice time at right defensive end. … Zimmer said cornerback Cameron Dantzler has gained some weight but still needs to get stronger. … Zimmer said Oli Udoh has “loved” playing some at guard, although he will continue to get some work at tackle.