A young-yet-experienced offensive lineman just became available in Pat Elfein, a former 3rd-round pick of the Vikings in 2017. Minnesota released Elfein this morning after he returned from an early-season injury. Should the Dallas Cowboys, who’ve struggled with offensive line injuries and depth and year, be interested in Elfein’s services?
Elfein has been a full-time starter since entering the league. He was a college teammate of Ezekiel Elliott, Noah Brown, and a few other Cowboys’ names you know at Ohio State and was starting guard for their 2014 National Championship team.
Pat converted to center in 2016 and was a consensus All-American for the Buckeyes. He was drafted by Minnesota the following year and spent two years at center for the Vikings, then played last year at guard.
Elfein had a solid rookie season, ranking 21st among all NFL centers according to Pro Football Focus, but struggled in 2018. He was moved to guard last year and had some modest improvement but was still a liability in pass protection.
Entering this final year of his rookie contract, Pat started at right guard for the Vikings’ season opener but then suffered a thumb injury in practice the following week. He has been on injured reserve since then and was just activated, but Minnesota has decided to leave rookie Ezra Cleveland in the starting lineup.
Source: The #Vikings have released G Pat Elflein. The veteran now goes on waivers. Just off IR, he’s healthy now and this gives him the opportunity to get some real playing time elsewhere.
For the Dallas Cowboys, Elfein doesn’t necessarily present an opportunity to upgrade. But his starting experience and versatility as a guard or center could be valuable if Dallas continues to struggle with injuries.
Rookie center Tyler Biadasz, who has taken over as starter since the season began, is expected to miss multiple weeks with a hamstring injury. That’s brought Joe Looney back into the first-team mix and leaves Connor McGovern and Adam Redmond as potential backups.
But what if another injury forces Zack Martin or Connor Williams to miss time? Or what if an injury at offensive tackle pulls one of them to another position?
Pat Elfein may not have been a stalwart for the Vikings but he’s been a starting center and guard for three winnings seasons, a division championship, and two playoff victories during his past three years in Minnesota.
If Dallas were to claim Pat off waivers then they may not face a lot of competition. That’s one silver lining to their current 2-7 record; waiver priority is determined by current NFL standings after Week 3.
The remainder of Elfein’s $2.1 million base salary would be Dallas’ to pay for the second half of 2020, then he would become an unrestricted free agent next offseason.
Still just 26 years old, Pat Elfein has already played a lot of games in the NFL and been a starter for successful teams. He’s not a star but he may present a better option than some of the journeymen Dallas is currently trying to get through the year with.
Regardless of the reward tut would be a no-risk addition for the Cowboys as they take on the reminder of this challenging 2020 season.