The Minnesota Vikings need help along the offensive line. And rather than look to free agency or the NFL Draft, general manager Rick Spielman has his sights set on the current roster.
Phil Loadholt, the team’s former starting right tackle, missed the entire 2015 season with a torn achilles. After a season spent recovering on Injured Reserve, Loadholt’s quietly made enough progress to warrant a return in 2016. Despite the speculation about his contract situation and age, all signs point to Loadholt taking the field as a starter next season:
Hear the #Vikings want Loadholt in 2016. Look for the 2 sides to talk $$ after the Combine. Current cap hit is $7.75M. Vikes want to lower.
— Darren Wolfson (@DWolfsonKSTP) February 26, 2016
Wolfson’s report comes as offensive linemen and running backs begin workouts at the NFL Scouting Combine. There’s plenty of talent to be had in this year’s class of prospects, but Loadholt is “right on track” with his recovery and could make a full return to the field by the start of Organized Team Activities (OTAs). And given the question marks surrounding T.J. Clemmings, a healthy, 30 year-old Loadholt is possibly the safest option at right tackle moving forward.
Aside from Loadholt’s health and advanced age, his contract is the most obvious barrier to a return with the Vikings. Loadholt signed four-year, $25 million contract extension with the team in 2013, making him one of the 10 highest-paid right tackles in the NFL. And in 2016, Loadholt’s salary cap hit is $7.75 million, which is the fifth-highest among all qualifying Vikings.
The Vikings clearly believe Loadholt can return to his 2013 and 2014 form, when he was considered one of the top tackles in the league. Pro Football Focus graded him as the fourth-best run-blocker among all right tackles in 2013, and at 6’8″, 343 pounds, he’s one of the most physical members of Minnesota’s offensive line. Wolfson also shared that team officials met with Loadholt’s agent last night to discuss a restructure.
On the other side of the offensive line, Wolfson reported that the front office is “torn” on what to do with former first-round pick Matt Kalil. The oft-criticized left tackle has yet to show he was worth the third-overall pick in 2012, making it hard to justify his $11 million cap hit in 2016. If Spielman decides to part ways with Kalil this offseason, he’d be doing so without any dead money. However, a move like that would create a pressing need at offensive tackle, unless the team plans to shuffle players like T.J. Clemmings along the line.