Free Agency

Andre Smith Leaves Minnesota Without a Deal

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.

A 73-game starter for the Cincinnati Bengals since 2009, Smith would come in immediately and challenge Phil Loadholt at right tackle. Loadholt missed the entire 2015 season with a torn achilles and returns to Minnesota on a one-year deal with no guaranteed money. It’s clear general manager Rick Spielman wants to create competition throughout the roster, and adding Smith would foster fierce training camp battles at the team’s worst position from 2015.

“Regardless of if it’s offensive line or wherever, we’re going to try to create as much [competition] as we can,” he said, per ESPN’s Ben Goessling. While Matt Kalil and newly-signed Alex Boone are the presumed starters on the left side of the line, the starters opposite them are up in the air. Mike Harris is expected to challenge Brandon Fusco at right guard, but the real logjam begins at right tackle, especially if Smith signs with the Vikings later this week.

He’d crowd a group that includes Loadholt and second-year tackle T.J. Clemmings, who started 16 games in place of the injured Loadholt last season. Clemmings was so shaky in 2015 that he may not see the field next year, only adding to the argument that Smith is an ideal fit in Minnesota. At least, that’s what Bengals radio analyst Dave Latham believes.

“Andre has very, very good feet for a big guy,’’ Latham said, per the Pioneer Press. “He’s very agile. Probably his strength is his run blocking. He can roll his hips and generate a lot of power in the running game and finish blocks. His pass protection also is pretty good because of his footwork.”

Smith is set to visit the Cardinals later this week. According to Tomasson, he called head coach Mike Zimmer a “phenomenal guy” and praised team officials for their genuine attitudes during the visit. A positive first impression — and a tender cut of beef — weren’t enough to keep Smith in Minnesota, but it’s possible he returns after his trip to Arizona.

Spielman may not have landed his second big-name free agent (yet), but his objective this offseason is clear; he’s going to do all he can to shore up the offensive line and turn one of the team’s most glaring weaknesses into a deep, competitive unit of strength.

[quote_box_center]“One of the areas that we wanted to address was the offensive line this year. We were able to do that signing Alex (Boone), getting Mike Harris back along with our current group, getting Phil Loadholt hopefully back and John Sullivan back healthy. I think having all those guys in camp, and if we’re able to sign Andre and still potentially get another guy in the draft here or there, we’re going to be much better up front.”[/quote_box_center]
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Austin Belisle

Austin Belisle is the West Coast's biggest Vikings fan, a football diehard cheering on the purple and yellow from sunny California. After graduating from San Jose State University in 2014, he began working full-time in corporate marketing and blogging on various sports websites. Austin's passion for the Vikings led him to Vikings Territory, where he hopes to share his lifelong enthusiasm for the team with readers on a daily basis. You can follow him on Twitter @austincbelisle

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  1. I would really like to see the Vikes land this guy and Andre Holmes. Holmes more so as he is likely a much better option than any receiver in this year’s draft. I am still hoping for Conklin in the first round and Killebrew in the second.

  2. It is never good when they leave without a deal. I say the chances are about at the most 10% that he signs with the Vikes.

    1. Not necessarily true. Though, having him sign before he left would have been the best case scenario. He wants to see how much he can get from Arizona.. luckily, we have more cap space. He loves Zimmer and he has teammates here. I think there’s a good chance he still signs with us.. then again.. you never know..

      1. I really hope he does sign. Just going by the track record of free agents that leave teams after a visit without a deal.

  3. When his travels are complete Andre’s gotta ask himself would he rather keep clean an old man like Palmer or dust off an up and comer like Bridgewater who will be around longer than himself

  4. I think $ more to do with it. Cool with this guy a team friendly deal but if AZ wants him more than we offered, then rather not get in bidding war. I’m sure we made him a good offer, if he can make more there then good luck. If championship is important and the money is equal I think the choice is clearly purple. We’ll see.

  5. He may have left without a deal, but he looks like he left w a meal (at the famous Manny’s steakhouse). Big boy, with a soft body. Mike Harris for RT (w Clemmings as backup and another in the draft).

  6. “Mike Sullivan”

    Who is Mike Sullivan??? Did you need to add a [sic] or did you typo it?

    “While Matt Kalil and newly-signed Alex Boone are the presumed starters on the left side of the line, the starters opposite them are up in the air. Mike Harris is expected to challenge Brandon Fusco at left guard”

    Well which is it? Is Boone starting on the left side or are Fusco and Harris fighting it out on the left? Does anyone proof read these articles?

    1. Hey Wyatt,

      Sorry about that, honest mistake on my part. The Mike Sullivan error comes from a Spielman quote (that I admittedly should have edited). As for the “left guard” mistake, that’s my fault for not proofreading. I try to keep my posts as clean as possible and regret the mistake. Thanks for pointing it out.

  7. As I recall, Smith was a big time hold out before signing his rookie deal out of college. He then had a disappointing first year as a pro. It is easy to imagine him taking his time then signing with whoever has the most $$$ on the table. It is fun to think of AP with the ball on 3rd and short behind Smith (flipped to LT for obvious running play), Boone, Berger (bigger and better than Sully), Harris and Loadholt. That is the “Manny’s Line”…serious beef!

  8. I’m hopeful we can land Andre Smith.After the Cardinals trade for Chandler Jones,they don’t have a bunch of money left and are now searching for a Guard to replace Jonathan Cooper,who was also part of the trade.