Monday, May 2, 2016

phil loadholt

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Western Michigan tackle Willie Beavers
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

The Minnesota Vikings continue to add offensive lineman to the roster, this time by drafting Western Michigan tackle Willie Beavers in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Beavers joins the Vikings after starting 40 straight games at left tackle for the Broncos over his four-year career. The 2015 All-MAC First-Team selection spoke to Minnesota media following the announcement.

“I want to thank the Vikings for believing in me and believing in my potential,” he said. “It’s a surreal feeling right now and I’m just so happy right now, I can’t even explain it.”

Coming out of high school, Beavers originally committed to play defensive line at Illinois. His scholarship was rescinded after the school recruited too many players, and Beavers quickly signed to play with Western Michigan.

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Andre Smith Signs With Vikings
Ex-Bengals offensive tackle Andre Smith signs with the Minnesota Vikings.

Former Bengals offensive tackle Andre Smith tweeted this morning that he has signed a one-year deal with the Minnesota Vikings. Smith, who was also meeting with the Arizona Cardinals, said in his tweet that the contract is a one year deal.

The Vikings hosted Smith for a visit this past Sunday but were not able to come to an agreement during his stay, leaving many wondering whether or not a deal would get done. Head coach Mike Zimmer knows Smith well from his time in Cincinnati and this signing is another example of his desire to add players he’s already familiar with from his time with the Bengals.

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Out with the old, in with the new

Vikings' starting offensive line
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Competition is the name of the game for the Minnesota Vikings, who completely revamped the look of their offensive line this offseason. Last year’s unit, which featured rookie right tackle T.J. Clemmings and reserve center Joe Berger, was a ramshackle bunch of pieces playing out of position.

Mike Harris, traditionally a tackle, was thrust into the lineup as a right guard. Brandon Fusco, the right guard of old, was forced to move to the left side of the line. And Clemmings, no matter how much of a “steal” he was in the draft, clearly wasn’t ready to take the reigns from an injured Phil Loadholt.

Heading into 2016, a pivotal year for the Vikings, general manager Rick Spielman took measures to prevent another disaster up front. His free agent signings — an re-signings — signal an emphasis on protecting third-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and solidifying one of the team’s weakest links from 2015:

  • Re-structuring right tackle Phil Loadholt and retaining left tackle Matt Kalil — consistency and continuity at the tackle position can’t hurt, right?
  • Re-signing right guard Mike Harris, who is expected to compete with Brandon Fusco for starting duties next season
  • Signing free agent left guard Alex Boone, who will step in immediately next to Matt Kalil
  • Bringing in free agent right tackle Andre Smith for a visit — the former Cincinnati Bengal is reportedly deciding between Arizona and Minnesota for his next contract

With all of these changes, moves, and potential signings, Spielman is fostering a competitive environment in Minnesota. Presumed starters today may end up on the bench tomorrow; it’s a guessing game at this point of the offseason. And that’s why I asked the VT team to make their best guess and predict the Vikings’ starting offensive line come Week 1. Who will rise and solidify a spot as one of the top-five?

It’s Week 1 of the 2016 regular season. Who is starting on the offensive line for the Minnesota Vikings?

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Andre Smith leaves Minnesota
Image courtesy of Wikimedia

The Minnesota Vikings are in the hunt for a possible starting right tackle, pulling out all the stops to lure free agents to Winter Park. A popular tactic is to take potential Vikings to Manny’s Steakhouse, a move the front office used last night when they wined and dined free agent right tackle Andre Smith at the upscale restaurant.

Despite the Prime beef and today’s scheduled tour of US Bank Stadium, Smith left Minnesota without a deal in place. According to Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press, his looming decision “is between the Vikings and the Cardinals,” and right now, it’s an “even” race between the up-and-coming NFC teams.

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