Wednesday, June 29, 2016

phil loadholt

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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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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 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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