Vikings, tackle Brian O'Neill agree to a contract extension
MINNEAPOLIS — Despite contract negotiations that dragged through the summer and into Week 1 of the regular season, right tackle Brian O'Neill said he was convinced Wednesday's contract extension would get done eventually because of his desire to stay with the Vikings.
"The certain point was earlier this offseason when I said I want to be here no matter what," O'Neill said moments after signing the new contract. "I've known that for a long time, just the people we have in this building and everyone around here, I just want to be a part of it, and I'm happy to be a part of it. There was never really a doubt whether something was going to work or not in my mind. This is where I want to be. I want to be a Viking for my whole career."
O'Neill and the Vikings agreed to a five-year extension, he said, which would keep the right tackle in Minnesota through the 2026 season. O'Neill, the former second-round pick, was entering the final year of his rookie deal. Now he's set to earn up to $92.5 million through this new contract, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter, as one of the league's highest-paid right tackles.
Wrapping up a new deal with the Vikings' best blocker was a priority for general manager Rick Spielman, who extended the team's top 2022 free agents O'Neill and safety Harrison Smith before the season opener. It was especially critical for an offensive line that has turned to O'Neill, who turns 26 next week, as a leader in just his fourth season.
He's started 42 straight games since first stepping into the lineup in the middle of the 2018 season as a rookie second-round pick. O'Neill became the Vikings' most experienced blocker when veteran Riley Reiff was cut this spring.
"This is the most excited I've been about an offensive line here," O'Neill said. "Hopefully we'll be able to see the results, but we've got to go out and be able to prove it."
The contract is the latest example of an NFL front office valuing a right tackle nearly as much as a left tackle, where top dollar is typically spent on an offensive line. O'Neill is the latest right tackle to sign a lucrative extension this summer, joining the Saints' Ryan Ramczyk, the Colts' Braden Smith and the Panthers' Taylor Moton. All three signed contract extensions worth at least $17 million per season.
It remains to be seen how O'Neill's deal is financially structured. The reported $92.5 million over the added five years gives him an $18.5 million average. But if that's the max value of his total contract, which is for six seasons, the average drops to about $15.5 million. He was set to earn $2.4 million in the final year of his rookie contract.
"I'm not really sure in terms of what it does for the position," O'Neill said, "but hopefully what it does for this team and other linemen that come up from the team behind me can see that, hopefully, there's an opportunity for a lot of other guys to have this kind of future."