Our very own Adam Patrick thinks the Minnesota Vikings need to cut Matt Kalil this offseason. He thinks the left tackle is a disappointment and far too expensive to keep in 2016. With a salary cap hit of $11.096 million next season, I can understand those points.
But I think Kalil deserves another shot to prove he’s the team’s long-term left tackle, and I think the strides he made last season warrant that chance. That’s why I’m throwing a challenge flag and asking Adam to join me for another Vikings Territory #CoinToss! We’ll duke it out, blog-style, and hopefully, I frustrate Adam to the point where he wants to knock my hat off my head.
Here we go! Adam, state your case, convince me that Kalil should be gone!
Adam: I stated a few of my main arguments in my article, but I do indeed still think there are a few I left on the table. Honestly, if Kalil was not a top-five draft selection, he might have already been cut from the team. But for some strange (and dumb) reason, teams feel obligated to give their first round disappointments chance after chance.
One of the things I adore the most about Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer is that he is not afraid to make changes to his team, no matter what the public his co-workers think. We’ve already seen players like Gerald Hodges and Josh Robinson taken out of the team’s future plans with Zimmer at the helm, so a decision to release Kalil should not come up as much of a surprise as it may in the past.
Austin: I would agree with you, but what’s out there? Are the Vikings going to reach for a left tackle in this year’s draft? There’s no way Spielman will trade up for a player like Ronnie Stanley or Laremy Tunsil; it’s impossible. Free agent targets like Cordy Glenn are off the market, and if the Vikings do land Kelechi Osemele, he’d most likely slot in as a guard.
And despite Kalil’s struggles since his rookie year, he was serviceable in 2015; serviceable enough to earn himself one last shot next season. The Vikings don’t have a better option on the roster, and they can’t afford to take a gamble on an unknown in the draft. That’s why Kalil, despite his $11.1 million cap hit, will remain in Minnesota this year. It’s a pricey pill to swallow, but it’s a choice the team made when they exercised his fifth-year option last offseason. Spielman is in control, and he’d be hard pressed to move on from a top-5 draft pick.
Let me have it, Adam!
Adam: There are actually quite a few left tackle options available in free agency this offseason. I could even think of a few household appliances that would be a better option than Kalil at left tackle for next year.
Even if the Vikings do not land Osemele (some other team will most likely overpay the poop out of him this offseason), there are still some potential free agent candidates that would fill the ant-sized void left by Kalil. Russell Okung, Donald Penn, and Jake Long are a few that would cost Minnesota less and give Teddy a better chance at keeping his head on his shoulders in 2016.
A free agent to keep an eye on could be Jermon Bushrod, who was the Chicago Bears’ left tackle for the past three seasons. He is familiar with the NFC North’s pass rushers, and he’s allowed just 34 sacks in 96 career starts. That’s only four more than Kalil has allowed (30.25) in 32 fewer starts.
Austin: That’s fine, I understand the need to solidify the position in 2016, but addressing left tackle requires a long-term outlook. And unfortunately, those three names would be band-aids on an open wound.
Okung is an above-average left tackle when healthy, but when is he healthy? He’s never played a full 16-game season, and his 2015 campaign ended with offseason shoulder surgery. Penn? He’s 32 years old and will likely demand upwards of $7 million in free agency. And Long? He’s fallen off the face of the planet.
Kalil is relatively affordable when looking at the market. He’s finally healthy, his play is on the upswing, and he’ll likely benefit from the guidance of new offensive line coach Tony Sparano. Giving up on him for the sake of money is shortsighted, especially seeing as the Vikings just paid Andrew Sendejo $16 million.
Adam: It’s more than just the money. You have to remember that the NFL salary cap is super inflated this offseason, so there will be plenty of players getting more money than they necessarily deserve.
The Vikings could find a way to renegotiate with Kalil and in turn gain a smaller cap hit for the next two or three seasons. But it seems like Minnesota would be pinning their hopes on the potential that he improves over the duration of that new contract. If he continues to play poorly next season, then what? With a new contract extension, the Vikings could even end up losing money if they decide that they are done with Kalil after next season.
Simply, Minnesota will not lose any money by cutting a player who is not worth even bringing back at a lower salary. A trade or a free-agent signing combined with a possible third or fourth round draft selection to groom could take away a lot of the headaches the Vikings have acquired since drafting Kalil.
Austin: We’re never going to agree, and that’s okay. It’s up to the readers to choose who wins this coin toss. I think Kalil deserves another shot, even with his bloated contract. The Vikings are talented enough to afford his salary this season, and the timing makes it so the team has to keep Kalil for another year. He was arguably one of the better (i.e. average) linemen last season, and the real concern stems from T.J. Clemmings‘ play at right tackle. The franchise doesn’t need to create any more questions or unfavorable situations by cutting Kalil and hoping his replacement will play better; it’s too risky.
You believe Kalil is damaged goods and it’s time the Vikings bring in a proven veteran. But what does the VT community want to do? Answer the poll below and let us know!