First off, a confession--much like Fearless Leader, I am a big fan of the site Pro Football Focus. They have great advanced stats, informative writers, and they cover pro football in a way that is unique and very 'Moneyball'-ish.
In their argument, they make a couple of good points:
Loadholt hasn’t been a great all-around tackle for the Vikings, but he’s excelled in the area that matters most to Minnesota. Since 2011, Joe Staley is the only tackle with a higher run block grade than Loadholt (+27.1). Considering the Vikings’ emphasis on the running game (and the fact they’re paying less than $10 million per season combined for Matt Kalil and PFF All-Pro center John Sullivan), committing $9.7 million to their right tackle makes sense.
But they lost me at the first sentence, which is where I think most fans of the Vikings are with Loadholt. He hasn't been great, so the bottom line is that he ain't worth the equivalent of 10 nights with Demi Moore in her prime.
He's been a one trick pony, basically, on that I think we can all agree. He is a guy that can run block, but is almost as good at killing drives with false start penalties and giving up ugly sacks (speed or bull rush, take your pick).
Is that worth $10 million?
Let me say that again so it sinks in: If the Vikings franchise Phil Loadholt, he will make $9.7 million dollars, or put another way, 5 times more than Matt Kalil (he'll make just over $2 million in 2014).
Look, Loadholt is a great run blocker, and the Vikes bread and butter is running, we all know that. But giving Loadholt $10 million would be akin to taking the ankle bracelet off Lindsay Lohan--you know it's a bad idea, and nothing good can come from it, so don't do it. Not Bryant McKinnie 'let me blow my money on strippers and a recording studio', because Loadholt's not that kind of guy, at least I don't think so. It's just a bad idea in principle to give that kind of money to a guy that hasn't earned it, in my opinion.
Now all that said, letting Loadholt walk isn't the smartest thing in the world, either. He's improved as a pass blocker, and the Vikings don't have anyone on the roster who is better than he is right now. With the Vikings choosing Brandon Fusco over Geoff Schwartz, the right side of their o-line will be a weak link if they let Loadholt get away, so they need to get a new deal done on him.
But if they can't, and they can't restructure the contracts of Jared Allen and Kevin Williams, a franchise tag on Loadholt, which we said earlier is $9.7 million, would really restrict the Vikings in what they can do for free agency, which begins March 12th. Minnesota has some priorities to fill, and can't allow themselves to be boxed in by the cap.
So I'm thinking 'no' to franchising Phil Loadholt, but that's just me.