Phil Loadholt is set to become an unrestricted free agent. The right tackle is good enough to command a long-term deal but are the Vikings interested in locking him up? Or would the Vikes prefer to slap the franchise tag on Loadholt and kick the negotiations for a long-term deal down the line a little? Certainly they won’t let him test free agency. He’s a very good run-blocking lineman. The Vikes have put together a nice offensive line and they would surely prefer to keep those five guys together.
So what will the Vikings do? The boys at PFF think there’s a good chance the Vikes will go the franchise tag route with Loadholt. They say:
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.
I personally think the Loadholt long-term deal will get done. But the Vikes could always hang the franchise tag on Loadholt to protect him in free agency then remove it later and give him the five-year contract he’s probably looking for. That’s how they handled Chad Greenway in 2011. Loadholt can drive you nuts with false starts and he gets blown by a little too easily in pass protection, but there’s no questioning his value as a run blocker. He helped open some nice holes for Adrian Peterson last year. He’s also a guy who keeps himself in good shape, which is a big plus. We’ve had some offensive tackles around here who didn’t always take conditioning seriously. Not naming names.