Allen Park — Riley Reiff is doing pretty well for himself these days. The former Detroit Lions’ first-round pick and starting offensive tackle is now manning the blindside for the Minnesota Vikings, who have boasted one of the NFL’s most potent offenses the first three weeks of the season.
Reiff scored big as a free agent, signing a five-year, $58.8 million deal with the Vikings, which included $26.3 million guaranteed. That was more than the Lions were willing to pay for a right tackle, but the Vikings committed to playing him on the left side, the more valuable of the two positions.
“Well, we thought he was the best one out there,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said during a Wednesday conference call. “We thought he played really well on the left side. I know they moved him to the right side, but we thought he played well there.
“I think part of the reason we were attracted to him was his attitude, his demeanor, his toughness,” Zimmer said. “He’s a Midwest guy that we just thought would fit in well here.”
Through three games, Reiff hasn’t allowed a sack. He hasn’t even allowed a defender to touch quarterbacks Sam Bradford and Case Keenum. Reiff also has played a role blocking for the Vikings’ vastly improved run game, opening lanes for rookie rusher Dalvin Cook.
Reiff played five seasons in Detroit, starting 69 games for the franchise. He replaced longtime starter Jeff Backus in the 2013 season, but was moved to the right side when the Lions drafted Taylor Decker last year.
“He’s one of the finest guys that I think anyone in this business have an opportunity to coach, and I’m not just saying that because of the school in which he graduated from,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said of his fellow Iowa alum. “Nevertheless, quality guy and things happen in terms of free agency. That’s just the way the business is.”
The Lions spared no expense to replace Reiff, signing Rick Wagner to five-year, $47.5 million contract this offseason. It was the most lucrative deal ever given to a designated right tackle.