Opinion

COIN TOSS: What Should the Vikings do with Matt Kalil?

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.

Final thoughts?

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.

Coin Toss

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!

 

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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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22 Comments

  1. Should and will they are two different questions.. Should they, yes they should. Kalil hasnt lived up to the hype and doestn show much to be desired

    Will they cut him? .. No i dont think they will.. NOt much in FA for LT’s and not much will be at 23 in the draft. So i am betting he stays at 11mil and if Sparano cant get it done, then he is cut.

    1. I think the Vikings should do what they probably are going to do. See what they can get on the FA market first, then go to Kalil and say simply: “This is what we can get — (fill in the blank) for, and hes better than you, so you either take X amount for so many years or you can sell your house…

        1. The legal tempering period begins on the 7th, so they can get a pretty good idea of what they can get in free agency before the 9th.

        2. I don’t know why people are saying there isn’t much there in free agency. If you go to spotrac.com and look at all the FA LT’s I see at least a half a dozen that are better than Kalil. They may not be as young, and they may not be top tackles, but they’re better than Kalil. Nobody wants to resign Kalil to a long term contract, so all anybody wants to do is buy a couple years so we can figure it out. That means you can still sign an older player and do the exact same thing, but spend less money and get higher quality of play.

          I guess the difference in opinion is how each of us view Kalil. I view him as below average and on some days he’s average. Here are the tackles that can surpass that quality of play – Okung, Beachum, Penn, and Bushrod. And here are some tackles that can meet that quality of play – Beatty, Long, and Harris. This also doesn’t take into account any that might be released. For instance Ryan Clady might be released, and there’s been some speculation that Eugene Monroe might be released.

          The FO can contact these guys on the 7th. They’ll know if they have a guy to replace him, and then cut him.

      1. One thing that was never mentioned was potential. Kalil still has the possibility to be a top 10 LT, Penn is ancient and Okung is older and injury prone. Long is too old as well.

        The only problem with Kalil is his cap hit, and that isn’t a large concern for us right now.

    1. Money isn’t a problem, we’re just fine on cap room.

      And there are NOT better options, unless Okung can stay healthy. But Okung is much older too

  2. Vikonomics – Kalil is worth more than Loadholt. A) Always Plays versus 2 years of full paid sick leave B) Left Tackle vs Right Tackle. Kalil slated at 11 million a year – Loadholt gets paid a little under 8 million a year. Offer Kalil 2 years at 18 Million with a good % in signing bonus. Kalil takes 2 million pay cut but gets guaranteed cash for 2 years and more money upfront. Vikings get Kalil at 9 million per year and an extra year to acquire and develop competition. Easy to float ideas with other people’s money but both sides get something.

  3. The “Kalil costs too much money” is a specious argument at best. For certain, we want the best player at the best price. But for a quality offensive tackle, you gotta disregard the money angle and go for what is the best fit for the 2016 Viking team. Kalil in 2016. If this results in another year of failure, and he won’t be a Viking in 2017. This option gives the Vikes another season to groom in a prospective replacement.

    Plus the draft is coming up, why play one of your cards too soon. SpeilMullen could possible include Kalil in a draft day trade. Patience ………

    1. Kalil and Quality Left Tackle?? Kalil and “below average but not the worst quality” is probably more accurate. Overpay him? Cut Him? or negotiate down from top 5 Tacle money to a below level Left Tackle salary in return for an extra year or two. I choose door #3 Because although he wasn’t good – he was better.

  4. Sparano’s hiring, 2 injured starters yet to be cleared, Fusco’s inadequacy at LG, Clemmings still learning, that’s a lot of situations still to be determined. Not to mention we still need a starting Safety, a WR and a LB. Its easy to surmise that you keep it as simple as you can. Restructuring Kalils contract would be the smart move. You don’t find LT’s at the local 7/11. Starting OT’s Kalil and Clemmings are signed and healthy, while Fusco is he only signed and healthy starting OG. Sully has a history of injuries, so I would put an emphasis on Berger and Harris, both have position flex. Harris could be signed by tomorrow, hopefully.

    1. This.

      I know everyone wants to blow up the Oline, but I think they go conservative and give these guys a year with Sparano and a year in Norv’s Shurmur influenced offense and see what happens. I think a reasonable argument can be made that Davidson and departed strength coach failed at developing guys. If that is true – even slightly – then it reasons to stand that our guys should be 5%, 10%+ better next year. I think it’s also a fair question as to whether Fusco had full strength back in his chest last year, given his sharp decline after being a top guard. Maybe it’s system too, but again it begs the coaching question. How about Sully and Loadholt? What if those guys come back at their career averages? Instant upgrade, right?

      Given so many unknowns, I think the Vikings take a measured, calculating approach. They will try to keep their guys at a reduced rate, if possible, buying low. See if it was coaching or talent, and not shoot their cap doing it. Probably draft a little higher OL, but still preserve 1st round flexibility should a Darron Lee or other top prospect fall. Given the lack of clear FA options, it doesn’t fit the recent Vikings FA strategy to invest a lot in someone they don’t have a connection too that doesn’t fit a clear upgrade. If all of this is true, I think it again leads back to reinforcing a predisposition to keeping our guys and finding out next year: is it talent, or coaching, that led to underperformance?

      As for the stakes, we won 11 games with a bad line, so hard to say that it’s the one thing keeping us from the playoffs. Given that even the same line playing together a second year should improve, and also given that we will hopefully call a better passing game with fewer 7 step drops, again we should see improvement. That’s my take on it anyways.

  5. We got 11 wins with the team we got. Why did they give him 11 million in the first place? 2015 was better than 2013 or 2014. I think they’ll keep paying him but will try to lower the price tag. He’s probably good enough if they can find a serviceable LG. Fusco isn’t it!

    1. they didnt give him 11mil.. its what he got based on being drafted in the 1st round and the wage scale for LTs. Its picking up his 5th year option, which is based on LT salaries.. The vikings DID NOT GIVE HIM THE 11mil. (YET). so that is why we dont know what they will do.. They have until march nine to either do a new contract.. pick up 5th year option and pay him 11mil for a year or cut him

  6. If you put any credence in Pro Football Focus’ rating system, then Kalil has to go. If you believe your own eyes from watching Vikings games, Kalil has to go. If you think the health of Teddy Bridgewater is important to the team’s future, then Matt “The Human Turnstile” Kalil has to go. If you believe any of these statements are true then it should not matter what his salary is… a dollar is too much. But what do I know. If the Vikings think Sendejo is worth $16 million, then roll up the Brinks truck and pay Kalil $50 million as a franchise left tackle. But it’s all too “Iffy” to me.

  7. I think Kalil was ranked last out of 35 LT’s. We should keep him only IF he renegotiates way down.

  8. Conundrum. If cutting him helps us land Osemele I’m all for it. I realize Osemele at LT is not ideal, but it would not have to be that way forever. We could still be a player in the veteran LT market, or look to the draft. If LT we draft is ready to roll day one then Osemele can LG, else he can LT until we find someone to LT.

    That said my gut tells me we will keep Matt either on a new deal with a couple years guaranteed (or at $11m if terms can’t be reached).

    In reality I’m not sure Kalil impacts our Osemele offer.

  9. I am not sure…(so somebody who knows, please comment) but if we cut him now we get no compensation. But if we keep him for a year and he starts and then we let him walk as a free agent, assuming he is signed we should get a rather decent compensatory pick for him…So for that reason, there is great value in overpaying for a year and seeing how it plays out.

    1. I had not considered that, Power Jack. I think we only get a compensatory pick if he is signed AND if we don’t sign some other big FAs instead. Compensatory picks are usually handed out due to a net loss in FAs, if my memory is correct.

  10. Hi Biggit..I think you are correct..But I think this year we will be a net buyer of FAs…so losing him this year does not get us anything…Too early to tell next year (of course) but next year he would definitely help us be a net seller…As you mentioned, it would depend on other FA (both coming and going

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