The Minnesota Vikings have a number of in-house free agents that they have to make decisions on over the course of the next few weeks. . .twelve of them to be precise. Of those twelve players, the one that might be the Vikings' biggest decision is right tackle Phil Loadholt.
Loadholt was taken by the Vikings in the second round of the 2009 NFL Draft out of the University of Oklahoma. In his four NFL seasons, he has missed one game (back in his rookie season) and has started at right tackle in all 63 regular season games and all three playoff games that he's been in. He was called for eleven penalties this past season, but graded out incredibly well as a run blocker, and has the endorsement of a pretty important piece of the Vikings' offense.
Running back Adrian Peterson, for one, said he would talk to general manager Rick Spielman and the team's other decision-makers about the importance of re-signing Loadholt.
"I'll probably talk to 'em, just to get that guy in," Peterson said. "He's just been improving each year. I'm going to keep my arms around him this offseason as well, just to make sure he's staying on top of this game and he's working out and he's doing the necessary things to make someone want to bring you back as well. So I'll have my toe in somewhere."
If Adrian Peterson wants the man back, it's safe to assume that the Vikings will make an attempt to keep him in the fold. The question is then going to become what the question always becomes in situations like these: "How much?"
In his live chat on Tuesday, Tom Pelissero of ESPN 1500 suggested that the Vikings could use the franchise tag on Loadholt, but I'm not sure if I can envision a scenario where that would happen. Franchise figures for offensive tackles don't differentiate between left tackles and right tackles, and as a result the price tag to franchise Loadholt would come to about $9 million. If he decided to sign it immediately. . .and I know that if someone set a piece of paper down in front of me and said, "You get nine million dollars if you sign this," I'd do it before the man could finish speaking. . .it would pretty much take the Vikings completely out of the free agency pool before it even got underway.
If the Vikings are unable to work something out with Loadholt, then offensive tackle would go up the list of off-season priorities in a hurry. It appears that the guy behind Loadholt on the depth chart right now would be DeMarcus Love, who in two years has yet to see the field in a regular season game (he was inactive for all 16 games in 2011 despite being on the 53-man roster all season, and was on injured reserve in 2012). While we don't know exactly what Love might bring to the table, it stands to reason that he'd scarcely be a replacement for a guy that was good enough to garner All-Pro votes this past season.
What do you envision happening with the Minnesota Vikings and Phil Loadholt?