Free AgencyQuestion Of The Week

VT QOTW: Where Do the Vikings, Loadholt Go?

Fans of the Minnesota Vikings collectively gasped when Phil Loadholt tore his achilles against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the preseason. Considered one of the team’s best offensive linemen, Loadholt has been an integral piece in the success of the offense, especially as a run blocker for Adrian Peterson.

His loss opened the door for right tackle T.J. Clemmings, whose rookie season was nothing short of a struggle. The fourth-round pick was a liability in pass protection, and offensive coordinator Norv Turner often shifted tight end and running back protection his way. With the news that Loadholt’s recovery is on track and he’ll be ready for offseason workouts, the Vikings will have to make a tough choice when deciding who starts at right tackle next year.

With a lengthy injury history, the 30 year-old Loadholt is a potential risk if the Vikings do bring him back next season. His cap number will be $7.75 million in 2016, and his status for training camp is still up in the air. If Loadholt does recover and wants to continue playing football, general manager Rick Spielman has four legitimate options:

  1. Sign Loadholt to a restructured deal this offseason
  2. Trade Loadholt to a right tackle-needy team this offseason
  3. Release Loadholt and move forward with T.J. Clemmings
  4. Retain Loadholt without restructuring his current contract

Seeing as Loadholt’s situation will be a topic of discussion among Vikings fans, I decided to ask the VT Team a right tackle-centric question this week: What should the Vikings do with Phil Loadholt next season?

Adam W.: Release Loadholt

I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Phil Loadholt get the Antoine Winfield treatment. As sad as it is to say that, age and price could very well bring Loadholt’s long stay in Minnesota to an end. Rick Spielman has invested very considerable money into four starting spots on the offensive line, and yet, it was last season’s weakest link. With that huge frame just not holding up anymore, Loadholt makes the most sense to part ways with, especially if the money saved can be used to retain the likes of Mike Harris.

Sam: Insert Loadholt as starter, sans contract restructure

Vikings fans know all too well the struggles of the offensive line in 2015 without Loadholt and fellow starter John Sullivan. I think the return of Sullivan—one of the better centers in the NFL—will alone bring stability to the unit, but they need help elsewhere, too. Loadholt has made a career as a solid, if unspectacular, right tackle, who can be a road grader in the run game and hold his own in pass protection. With the Vikings about $20 million under the cap (and unlikely to go bonanza in free agency), paying Loadholt’s salary doesn’t hurt much financially. I say insert him back in the starting lineup and let him prove he either can or can’t do the job anymore. Best case scenario, he returns to pre-injury form and Clemmings is used as the backup at both tackle positions, where he is probably better suited. Worst case, he isn’t fit to be a starter and adds offensive line depth in the final year of his deal.

Carl: Restructure Loadholt

Financial decisions will dictate whether or not Loadholt returns. He is due $5.4 million in non-guaranteed money. Zimmer wants competition and Loadholt hasn’t played a game since November 23, 2014, when he suffered a torn pectoral muscle and a torn achilles tendon. Zimmer will not just hand the job over to Loadholt. A restructured deal for Loadholt (if cap space is an issue) and an open competition for the right tackle position is the direction I would go. Zimmer wants competition and I’m all for that.

Adam P.: Release Loadholt

To me, Loadholt’s time in Minnesota should be over. Two years in a row with season ending injuries and a body that’s not getting any younger does not help his chance at making this team next season — especially given the type of injury that kept him out this year.

A torn Achilles is an injury that many struggle to come back from. Many also have a hard time doing many of the things they did before the injury. Plus, it is not like the Vikings’ offensive line was amazing, even when Loadholt was able to play. For a unit that has given up 40 or more sacks in each of the last four years, Loadholt could also be joined by a few more current Minnesota offensive linemen, as the Vikings will look to improve their pass and run blocking this offseason.

Matt Falk, Draft Season: Insert Loadholt as starter

With the offensive line issues the Vikings had in 2015, I think they  need to keep Loadholt as the starter for 2016. That said, they also need to bring in some help via free agency or the draft, just in case Big Phil isn’t the same player he was before the injury. Coming off an injury at the age of 30 is a risky move, but I think it is worth it to at least see what he has to bring to the table. With the shape the Vikings line is in, it would be extremly painful for the Vikings to let him go and watch him play at a high level on another team.

Nik Edlund, Draft Season: Insert Loadholt as starter

I’m answering this under the assumption he will be ready to go, and be able to start all 16 games. If that is indeed the case, then I think the Vikings should go ahead and insert him as the starter at right tackle.  Loadholt is by no means a perfect player, as he often struggles in pass protection, doesn’t always fire out of his stance, and is a magnet for yellow flags. But he is still an exceptional road grading run blocker and an upgrade over TJ Clemmings. This also would allow the Vikings to try T.J. Clemmings out at guard, where he could battle either Mike Harris or Brandon Fusco for a starting job, depending on which side the team tries him on.

So a healthy Loadholt potentially upgrades two positions on the Vikings’ offensive line. It also gives them the option to use that first round pick at a position like WR, OLB, or S. The team also knows what it has in Loadholt, as opposed to bringing in an unproven rookie who may or may not be able to handle NFL pass rushers. Loadholt is in the last year of his contract. so he has some extra motivation to play his best football yet. The Vikings are a team that is ready to make a serious run at the Super Bowl, and having an experienced veteran like Loadholt at right tackle could be a move that helps them actually get there.

Austin: Release Loadholt

I’m of the unpopular opinion that T.J. Clemmings is the starting right tackle, and should be in 2016 and beyond. Despite his struggles, he started all 16 games for the Vikings last year and has the potential to be a solid player for the Vikings. With his relative youth and the ability to develop, he’s the smart (and inexpensive option) for Rick Spielman moving forward. Loadholt, meanwhile is coming off another brutal injury and will likely need time to “catch up” as a 30 year-old right tackle. Unless the Vikings decide to restructure Loadholt’s contract this offseason, his $7.75 million cap hit in 2016 is too grand to justify bringing him back. Clemmings will struggle, as young tackles do, but patience is a virtue in the NFL. Give the rookie a break.

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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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12 Comments

  1. Restructure. With a new strength regimen in place, we should at least give him a chance to prove he still has the ability he’s shown us before. His health is a concern, but to restructure a contract that ties his compensation to snaps played, it would be well worth it to see what he still has left.

  2. It’s not stated in the article, but restructuring also means extending him. But I still believe that’s the best option. 30 isn’t the dreaded “cliff” for offensive lineman that it is for other positions. If Phil is resigned on a two or three year extension (depending on what he show in OTA’s and minicamps), then I think it would be reasonable to believe that the Vikings could end up paying him an average $3-$4 million per year. A great value if he returns to form. Generally speaking for a two or three year contract the final year isn’t guaranteed, so basically they would be able to walk away from this contract after this coming season or the next. At this point Phil and TJ could battle it out for the starting RT position (which I believe Phil would win) with the loser being the backup swing tackle. Also, Jason Peters ruptured his achilles twice in the 2012 offseason (he was 30 at the time), and he came back to play at an All Pro level. So, it’s not like it can’t be done. …now, what to do with the LT position?

  3. As I posted on Vikings.com & since we’re on the subject of Loadholt, regarding the OL. Also with the draft coming and the FA. Off-season thing. This is just a thought and I am not an expert, so don’t mind me.. don’t worry about me, I have mine and you have yours.. every body’s got their own opinion and you are titled to your own opinion as long as you don’t call ppl names or being disrespected. If we can somehow find the cap to sign these 3 players to our OL. Our OL problems should be fixed!
    LT – Cordy Glenn, OT, Bills. Age: 26. Cordy Glenn has evolved from a second-round pick into one of the elite left tackles in the NFL. Glenn isn’t great in terms of run blocking, but no pass-rushers get by him. Good pass protector!! He’s going to command a huge contract.
    Sign RT -Ryan Schraeder, OT, Falcons. Age: 28. Ryan Schraeder has emerged as one of the NFL’s top right tackles. He’s an exceptional pass protector. Just 28 in May, he still has at least four strong years remaining.
    Sign LG – Kelechi Osemele, G/OT, Ravens. Age: 27. Already a very talented guard, Kelechi Osemele helped his earning potential this offseason by playing and thriving at left tackle in the wake of Eugene Monroe being injured. Teams value versatility up front, and Osemele has proven that he has plenty of it.
    And let go of the players with cap hit to make room.
    And if we can sign 2 or just 1 of these players. would be very nice!!
    The 2 players I really hope we sign in FA is LT – Cordy Glenn & LG – Kelechi Osemele
    Teddy show us all in the Pro Bowl that he can throw downfield!! More than 20 yards!! With a little time and a big WR!
    So we should give him that!!
    In FA – get Cordy Glenn & Kelechi Osemele & in the 1st RD in the draft get Teddy a Big WR!!
    Wallace has the team’s highest cap number in 2016 ($11.5 million) but the Vikings can save all of that money by cutting him before June 1. And sign LT Cordy Glenn for that kind of money.
    Also Matt Kalil, has not really worked out for the Vikings since his rookie year. And his cap # is $11,096,000. Is best to part ways with him on that kind of money and use els where.
    Phil Loadholt & John Sullivan has been injury prone for the last two years and coming of age. So best to part ways and save that money for FA. And Joe Berger can man the C spot for at least one more year, till we find one in next year’s draft!
    So with that we can find cap room to sign all 3 of these Good solid offensive lineman.
    Vikings starting OL
    LT- Cordy Glenn
    LG – Kelechi Osemele
    C – Joe Berger
    RG – Brandon Fusco or Mike Harris ( have to re-sign Harris)
    RT -Ryan Schraeder
    OL – solve !!
    And maybe trade AP for a 2nd or 3rd round and for more cap room too. My thought is like maybe trade AP along with our 5th to the Cowboys for their 2nd RD pick at 34
    Also with the AP trade and cap room, Vikings can give Harrison Smith a new contract! But mostly for cap room for the Vikings to do what they want in FA & sign other good players of need! And it would be nice if we can get a trade from the Cowboys with their 34th pick in the 2nd round for AP and our 5th.
    Now to the Draft
    1 BPA WR
    2 The trade we got for AP – Noah Spence DE Eastern Kentucky
    2 BPA SS
    3 BPA WLB
    4 BPA RB – maybe Alex Collins RB Arkansas if he’s still available
    5 Traded
    6 BPA CB
    7 BPA Kicker Roberto Aguayo Florida State if he’s still available! To compete with Blair Walsh
    7 BPA Punter Drew Kaser Texas A&M
    And again – This is just a thought and I am not an expert, so don’t mind me.. don’t worry about me, I have mine and you have yours.. every body’s got their own opinion..Thank you!!

    1. Are those your opinions? I only ask because your comments on your prospective FA’S are lifted straight from Walterfootball

  4. I think they should keep Loadholt either at same price or a paycut with incentives based on games played. It would give Clemmings another year to be groomed to take over. Move Fusco back to RG. Re-sign Mike Harris and let him compete with Fusco at RG now and Clemmings after this year for RT. Mike Harris could end up winning either one of those jobs. I would keep Sullivan for at least one more year. You would have Berger as a backup and he too could compete for RG. I would bring in a free agent LG like Osemele and settle that spot. I am fine with Kalil for another year, but if you could take his money and get Cordy Glenn instead, that would work too.

    LT – Kalil or Glenn
    LG – Osemele
    C – Sullivan
    RG – Fusco, Berger or Harris
    RT – Loadholt

    You would have three starters from last year on your bench in case of injury. I really like Harris, and he could very easily win RT or RG job. Berger could possibly win RG job but would last longer if he could be our backup C/G for the next 2-3 years. The chances of getting Glenn AND Osemele are slim, but it would be great. The Vikings aren’t in a bad cap situation, so they can afford any of these options.

    1. All agree. Line is priority. Injury, Age, Performance & Cap costs. Answer – Maximize value create options and for God Sakes Compete! 1) Pay Loadholt with no extension. Hope Phil can play after 2 injuries and 2 lost seasons + Groom Clemmings & compete with Phil. 2) Evaluate then keep Sully or Berger trade the other and develop SF kid Easton to compete. Fusco back to RG. Keep Kalil on cheaper long term deal (Guy is avg LT but starter and always goes out there (plays through injury). Draft Cody Whitehair for Left Guard. (Whitehair has high grade. Offers flexibility – has played well at Guard & Tackle and on Rt & Lt side of line). Sadly – This Maximize cap, options & competition strategy probably sends Sully elsewhere and leaves Phil competeing for his career on a 1 yr deal against 2nd year Clemmings. NFL is Harsh business!

    2. Agree on your Fusco and Loadholt points keeps quality, competition & cost balance at those spots. Center having Sully, Berger, & Austin – young development? Too many resources at that spot. Think Viking model is invest in Sully or Berger only, keep Austin for youth & competition. Then invest in Left Guard (Starter Free Agent $$ or 1st or 2nd rd draft selection. You positively do not give up on Clemmings (Knew he was raw. All smart analysts saw him as huge upside needing time to develop) Cutting him because Phil cant stay on field caused you to rush him into starter immediately would be bad management. Agree Vikes OLIne needs to be better.

  5. Honestly I think you can make a pretty effective argument that the Vikings best move would be to blow up the entire oline and cut Loadholt, Sullivan, Fusco, and Kalil. The cap savings would be huge and they would still be able to return the entire right side of their actual starting line from last year in Clemmings, Harris, and Berger, and they could likely fill the other Guard position from options currently on the roster starting with Berger if Kerin or Easton are ready to take over the center job, but Shepard and Sirles would also be options there. That only leaves the all important LT position, but the point here is that they could very likely put together a unit that performs at the same sub-par level they got last year for a fraction of the price, and it would be a unit that has potential to get better instead of worse like our current cast does if they return Sullivan and Loadholt to their starting jobs.
    Releasing Phil would probably be the smart thing to do. Even if he doesn’t have another injury setback, the chances of him coming back at age 30 from an Achilles tear and performing at the level he did three years ago to earn him the contract he’s currently on is slim at best. His game dropped off his first year on the new contract, so I don’t know how the team can even try to assess what they would get from him two years and two season ending injuries later. Combine that with the fact that TJ Clemmings is likely to have a pretty major improvement in year two after starting all 16 games last year and it really isn’t that hard of a decision to make from the teams perspective.
    Ultimately though, I think they will bring both guys back if we don’t get a surprise retirement form Sullivan. Our cap situation is not such that they need to make any drastic moves and those are two popular players in the locker room. The other thing you have to remember at this time of year is that a good percentage of those names sitting on top of ESPN’s top FA boards are going to resign with their current squads before they ever hit the market. Glenn will end up in that category. It’s already known that the Bills are going to cut Mario Williams and the 12 million in cap savings from him will go right to re-signing Glenn. They aren’t going to let a franchise LT walk out the door. Osemele I could see making it to free agency but I don’t think they will break the bank on a guard.

    1. The saving would be nice IF they needed it, but they don’t. And as you said, if Glenn and Osemele aren/t coming, then why would we go with the guys that failed us this year just to save money. The line needs major improvement. let’s not write off Sullivan and Loadholt unless we are going to put that money into someone younger and better. Berger had a great year, BUT that is the only time he had a great year in his career. He is a 31 year old jouneyman backup that had a great year, but I’m not ready to bet the farm and get rid of Sullivan for him. Why not let Berger compete for RG and if he doesn’t win, we have a great backup G/C. Clemmings was terrible this year. He was no better at the end than he was in the beginning, 16 weeks later. What makes you think all of a sudden he will even be average, much less really good. Cut Fusco? Because he didn’t click at LG when he was really solid at RG before. Why not put him back at RG and bring in a really goof LG from free agency (Osemele). Why would we cut a decent LT that we used a high pick on if we don’t have someone to replace him? Why not ride him out this year? He improved quite a bit this year from the last two. Maybe he gets better again this year. At least he has at one point played well in the past. Why take a big step back with the O line when we need to take a big step forward. We have maybe one more good year out of AP, and we can’t have another year of Teddy under siege or he may regress and lose his confidence. We need to bring back those guys and sign a LG. We aren’t hurting for cap room, so don’t cut them unless you have replacements. I am not saying I wouldn’t like to see better and younger guys there in their place, but without spending big and actually landing those guys, keep what we have for one more year.

    2. Agree with the frustration about the OLine. Only downside to blowing it up is free agency is the most expensive way to fix line (teams keep the value guys they like) and continuity is the best way to build a good line. Vikes have seriously good players (Yes at non Oline positions) every year for the next 3-4 years they need to pay on longterm expensive 2nd contracts. Think you need to focus on draft, continuity and maybe 1 mid level cost = midlevel talent FA lineman. Agree with the blow it up impulse though.

  6. The “Known’s” – Big contract, injury prone, marginal player when healthy, he’s a large human being.

    The “Unknown’s” – Full extent of the injury, (you can’t measure pain), will compensating for the injury alter his technique and effectiveness, the Will or motivation.

    Breaking down Loadholt in this format, I’d vote to cut him.

    1. Ole, Loadholt was not a marginal player when healthy. He was arguably the best run-blocking right tackle in pro football and had developed into a competent pass blocker. I’d like to at least give him a shot to win back his job.

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