Friday, December 9, 2016

phil loadholt

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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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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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