TVA previews the 10 storylines that will be consuming our lives starting on July 26 when the Vikings report to Mankato (full camp schedule available from Vikings.com).
7. Matt Kalil
We’re two weeks away from the start of camp – can’t you just smell the campiness in the air??? – and Matt Kalil still doesn’t have a contract. And he’s not alone in this. Most of the top picks in the draft still don’t have contracts. The hold-up is the same for every guy. Offset language. The whole thing’s too complicated for a mere blogger like me to truly comprehend, so I’ll turn to an expert for clarification. Ian Rapoport:
Thanks to the new CBA, first-round contracts are four-year deals with a fifth-year option for the team. That option must be picked up by the March following the player’s third year. Once that is exercised, a player’s fifth year of the contract (as much as $10 million) is guaranteed for injury. Essentially, teams will make decisions on their first-rounders after Year 3, determining whether or not they want to be on the hook for the remaining money.
But in the fourth year comes the debate over offset language. If there is offset language, it allows the team to save money when releasing a player. Let’s say a first-rounder is due $2 million in his fourth year. If he’s released, and then agrees to a $2 million deal with a new team, the original team is completely off the hook. He receives $2 million from his new club, and the team that drafted him washes its hands of the situation. If there is no offset language, the discarded player receives the guaranteed money from his original team and the full salary from his new team. The original team can’t merely allow the new team to pay the remaining guaranteed money as part of the new deal.
OK, that was a lot to digest. To put it simply … Offset language is what teams covet. No offset language — double-dipping — benefits the players.
Right. Got it. Teams want offset language, players want no offset language. And because of this, Matt Kalil is still waiting to sign his contract.
The general belief is that this isn’t a big deal. At some point in the next two weeks all these issues will be hashed out, the high picks will get their contracts and everything will proceed as planned. Unless this whole offset language thing is a bigger snag than the experts think. In that case, there’s a chance Matt Kalil and the other unsigned players might not even show for camp.
But let’s operate from the assumption that this will all be cleared up and Matt Kalil will be at camp from day one. What kind of scrutiny can Kalil expect from the media and fans as a #4 overall selection? I think he will get a fair amount of attention. Obviously the scrutiny won’t be nearly as bad for him as it will for, say, Andrew Luck, or even more so Robert Griffin III (bigger media market, more attention, plus Luck is coming to a team with no expectations whatsoever). Both those guys are quarterbacks and quarterbacks always get the most attention, especially when they’re #1 and #2 overall picks.
But I don’t think Kalil will just be able to slide in under the radar. He’s kind of a big deal. Plus, he’ll be pitted against Jared Allen every day in practice, and Jared you know has a habit of making life miserable for left tackles in camp. Jared doesn’t know how to go half-speed, and anyway the Vikings wouldn’t want him to. They want Jared to put Kalil through his paces. Trial by fire. So, we can expect plenty of updates on Kalil’s match-ups with Jared. And we have to assume there will be some tough, frustrating days for the rookie as he learns to play his position at the pro level.
That’s if he’s even there when camp starts. If not, the storyline changes entirely. Then it becomes: When will Matt Kalil report? And more importantly, is Matt Kalil’s absence from camp hurting the team? That will be a legit question to ask. Because it’s not just Kalil, it’s the whole new offensive line that the Vikings are trying to sort out. Kalil at left tackle is supposed to slide Charlie Johnson to guard. If Kalil’s not there, the Vikings won’t be able to start implementing their whole new O-line plan. It won’t be the end of the world if he doesn’t show up for camp right away of course, but it will set things back a tiny bit. And of course if Kalil goes on to struggle it will give his apologists a handy excuse. There are always apologists and they love handy excuses.
How I Hope This Will Play Out:
Matt Kalil gets his contract signed. He reports for camp on-time. He owns Jared Allen in practice and goes on to dominate in the regular season, becoming offensive rookie of the year.
How I Hope This Will NOT Play Out:
The offset language thing becomes a major issue, causing Kalil to miss a ton of camp. He scrambles to catch up with his teammates and suffers an injury. He’s on the shelf all through preseason, then tries to come back for the start of the regular season and is obviously not himself. Then he blows out his knee and goes on IR. Yeah, that would suck hard.