Thursday, September 29, 2016

Matt Kalil

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Vikings offered Mike Harris a new contract
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Offensive line play is worse than ever in the NFL, making top players a premium commodity in free agency. That’s why the Minnesota Vikings are making an early effort to bring back free agent guard Mike Harris. According to Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press, the Vikings have offered the 27 year-old veteran a two-year, $3.5 million contract to remain with the team through 2017.

Harris was arguably the best offensive lineman in Minnesota last year, finishing the season as Pro Football Focus’s 23rd-ranked guard. He began 2015 as a reserve right tackle, but quickly made the the transition to right guard at the start of training camp. At 6’5″ and 338 pounds, Harris isn’t a natural fit at the position, but his size and strength in the trenches was critical to the success of the run game.

This offseason, he spoke to Tomasson about his desire to return to the Vikings:

“I see myself in Minnesota for the rest of my career,” Harris said. “That’s where I want to be. So hopefully we get the contract ready this weekend. I’m excited. It’s going to be a great season for the Vikings, and I want to be a part of it.”

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No more Minnesota nice.

Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Following the 2012 NFL season, the Minnesota Vikings were excited for what lied ahead in the future for their left tackle Matt Kalil who had just completed his first season in the league. Kalil looked impressive in his rookie season, earning a trip to the Pro Bowl and helping the Vikings clinch a berth into the playoffs.

However, the bright light that was once Kalil’s future with the Vikings has been continuously dimming since his rookie season came to an end. It still remains puzzling as to why his play has significantly decreased since that very first season he played in Minnesota.

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Loadholt's return to the Vikings
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

The Minnesota Vikings need help along the offensive line. And rather than look to free agency or the NFL Draft, general manager Rick Spielman has his sights set on the current roster.

Phil Loadholt, the team’s former starting right tackle, missed the entire 2015 season with a torn achilles. After a season spent recovering on Injured Reserve, Loadholt’s quietly made enough progress to warrant a return in 2016. Despite the speculation about his contract situation and age, all signs point to Loadholt taking the field as a starter next season:

Wolfson’s report comes as offensive linemen and running backs begin workouts at the NFL Scouting Combine. There’s plenty of talent to be had in this year’s class of prospects, but Loadholt is “right on track” with his recovery and could make a full return to the field by the start of Organized Team Activities (OTAs). And given the question marks surrounding T.J. Clemmings, a healthy, 30 year-old Loadholt is possibly the safest option at right tackle moving forward.

VT Offseason Plan, Free Agency

Introduction

[In part two of this three-part series, Austin Belisle and Brett Anderson team up to put together an in-depth free agency plan for the Minnesota Vikings. Part 1.]

Rick Spielman’s job with the Minnesota Vikings isn’t easy. In reality, any general manager’s job is a challenge. As the highest-ranking member of the team’s personnel department, Spielman is not only responsible for hiring coaches and staff members, but for building and tweaking a competitive roster each season.

His duties require year-round coordination and planning, all of which come to a head between February and April. It’s then that Spielman and his front office must finalize their college scouting, address the mad-dash that is free agency, and find new talent through the annual NFL Draft. And he does all this with a clear vision in mind, one he’s continued to develop in his five years as general manager.

Vikings Wonderlic Test
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

The turf at Lucas Oil Stadium is a proving ground for hundreds of college football players at the NFL’s annual Scouting Combine. There, potential first round draft picks and sleepers alike try to sprint, jump, and interview their way onto an NFL roster. It’s the blazing 40-yard dash times and impressive bounds that grab the headlines, but often, it’s their work behind closed doors that boosts (or hurts) a player’s stock.

Team interviews can make or break a prospect’s reputation with organizations. Maxx Williams, the former Golden Gopher tight end, reportedly came across as selfish in combine interviews last year, and his attitude may have turned a few teams off in the process. Eric Kendricks, meanwhile, was described as someone who could walk into a defensive huddle as a rookie and immediately gain the respect of veterans.

Sometimes, the fastest, tallest, and strongest players find themselves falling in the draft. All the weight and speed in the world can’t replace one of football’s most important requirements — cognitive ability. It’s why the Wonderlic Test, as parodied as it may be, remains a crucial aspect of the NFL Draft process and a key into the minds of gridiron greats.

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