It looked like that might not happen as training camp and preseason came and went without a new deal for O’Neill, the 2018 second-round pick entering the final year of his rookie contract. But in the days of Rick Spielman and Mike Zimmer, the Vikings have a tradition of doing these things with their local talent. Last year Dalvin Cook signed an overtime just before the start of the season, and O’Neill has now done the same.
“There was never really a doubt in my mind that something was going to happen,” said O’Neill. “This is where I want to be. I want to be a Viking for my entire career.
The numbers on this contract will be interesting to see. The tackling market was established earlier this offseason with extensions for Ryan Ramczyk of the Saints, Taylor Moton of the Panthers and Braden Smith of the Colts. We’ll see how the O’Neill chord compares to this trio.
- Ramczyk: Five years, $ 96 million (average annual value of $ 19.2 million)
- Moton: four years, $ 72 million (AAV 18 million)
- Smith: four years, $ 70 million (AAV 17.5 million)
- O’Neill: to be determined
Ramczyk deserved the best of this group, as he was Pro Football Focus’s highest ranked tackle in the NFL in 2019. Moton and Smith have also proven to be slightly better than O’Neill so far in their careers, but not by a large margin.
O’Neill, who turns 26 on Sept. 15, has improved in each of his three seasons in Minnesota. He made headlines by not allowing a sack as a rookie after entering starting lineup in Week 6, but he wasn’t really good at pass protection this year- there, giving up 31 presses and eight QB hits while struggling to find his rhythm as a run-blocker.
O’Neill’s second campaign in 2019 was significantly better, as he allowed just 19 pushes and a sack in 15 starts. The baseline of his performance has improved and he has become much more consistent.
The Pitt product continued its upward trajectory last season, making huge strides in the racing game. He played all 16 games and seemed to master the Vikings’ outer zone scheme, putting his athleticism to good use and paving the way for another monster season for Dalvin Cook. O’Neill was a bit inconsistent in passing protection, allowing 26 pushes and three sacks, although those sacks included all of his three allowed QB hits. It was clearly his best season in the NFL, although he didn’t quite make the jump to the elite true straight tackles that some had expected.
Here’s how PFF rated and mapped O’Neill over his three seasons. Last year, he was the 11th highest-rated straight tackle in the league with a minimum of 600 snaps at RT.