Saturday, December 3, 2016

Matt Kalil

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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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Image courtesy of Vikings.com

The Vikings rumor mill and speculation machine are both currently examining the situation in Minnesota regarding Matt Kalil and his $11.1 million salary for 2016. On March 9th, that salary becomes fully guaranteed and forces Rick Spielman to make a decision on the left tackle position very soon.

In a vacuum, Kalil is certainly a dubious investment when it comes to such a sizable chunk of the salary cap. However, that you’ll find someone to play the position better than him anytime soon is also a risky proposition.

The ideal situation, for both the team and the player, would probably be to come to a long-term extension agreement that lowers Kalil’s cap hit while also providing him some long-term guarantees. That also puts the Vikings in a position to again overpay, over a longer period of time, for a player that has been inconsistent (at best) so far in his career.

Vikings free agency targets
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

The NFL League Year officially begins on March 9th, but there really are no timeouts when it comes to professional football. Once the final whistle blows at the end of the Super Bowl, front offices ramp up their efforts to improve rosters by making cuts, trades, and adding new talent.

That starts during Free Agency, which coincides with the beginning of the “new” year. Top-tier players, journeymen, and sleepers become available to the highest-bidding, and at times, most desperate teams. The Minnesota Vikings and general manager Rick Spielman generally take a cautious approach to the free-for-all extravaganza, finding value in lesser-known names who don’t dominate the headlines.

It’s an approach that recently brought players like Linval Joseph and Captain Munnerlyn to Minnesota; free agency additions that make an impact at a reasonable price. This year’s crop of players is filled with a few high-profile names, many of whom fans would like to see in purple and gold. But who would the VT Team like to see in Minnesota next year? I asked, and they answered!

Who is one player you’d like to see the Vikings sign in Free Agency?

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