Thursday, July 28, 2016

phil loadholt

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Rick Spielman and the Minnesota Vikings fan base appear to be on the same page when it comes to upgrading the offensive line this offseason. The most clear evidence comes in the form of “tampering period” reports and rumors suggesting that the Vikings are willing to offer a significant contract to guard Kelechi Osemele.

This report comes after the Vikings made a series of offseason moves proving they plan to improve their blocking situation, which started with the acquisition of line coach Tony Sparano. On Monday, they also successfully convinced right tackle Phil Loadholt to return on a greatly reduced salary, while also retaining the young Carter Bykowski.

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Image courtesy of Vikings.com

The Vikings entered the offseason with two exclusive rights free agents: Adam Thielen and Carter Bykowski.

Players designated with the “ERFA” status have no choice but to play another season for their former team if that team wants to retain them at a set price. Well, unless they want to retire from the NFL, that is.

The Vikings have retained the services of both of these guys as of Monday afternoon, according to a press release distributed by the team.

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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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Vikings are interested in Cody Whitehair
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

The Dallas Cowboys selected Zack Martin with the 16th-overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, and many debated whether the Notre Dame tackle was worthy of a first round selection. Jerry Jones opted for the safe choice, passing on Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel for a chance to bolster what was then the NFL’s best offensive line.

“Is Martin as a guard worthy of a mid-first round pick? That’s debatable,” wrote Sports Illustrated’s Doug Farrar. Other media members shared Farrar’s sentiment, and all were quickly proven wrong. Martin finished his rookie season as the NFL’s fourth-best run-blocking guard, per Pro Football Focus, and continued his elite play in 2015. The right guard position is a non-need for the Cowboys, and it will be for years to come because of Martin. This year’s draft class is a bit top-heavy with interior offensive line prospects, putting the Minnesota Vikings in a similar position as Dallas two years ago.

Widely considered the top guard in the class, Kansas State’s Cody Whitehair is drawing plenty of interest from NFL teams, one of those being the Vikings. According to reports from ESPN 1500’s Andrew Krammer, general manager Rick Spielman and staff are pouring their time into Whitehair:

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