The Minnesota Vikings declined to put its franchise tag on right tackle Phil Loadholt, leaving his future with the franchise up in the air. Tagging him would have proven a costly move for Minnesota -- he would have earned more than $9.8 million dollars in 2013, which is a lot of money to invest in a right tackle.
Back in February, Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said the team wanted to retain Loadholt well into the future, and that they value continuity up front:
"Continuity is a huge part of it on the offensive line because those guys have to work as one unit and they have to know each other inside and out. They work together on combination blocks, on picking up stunts and twists when they're in pass pro passing off. I think continuity is a big key to that. We'd love to keep Phil Loadholt, so we'll try to do everything we can to keep Phil Loadholt but we also have a lot of guys we'd like to keep."
Since they didn't tag him, we know how far the Vikings won't go, from a financial perspective. But will they be willing to offer enough to beat out other potential suitors? The league's free agency period begins on March 12, and if the two sides haven't agreed to an extension by then, it may be time for Vikings fans to start worrying.
Loadholt has been a starter for the Vikings ever since they selected him in the second round of the 2009 NFL Draft. He has made 63 regular-season starts for the franchise and hasn't missed a game since his rookie year. While he hasn't earned any trips to the Pro Bowl, he's been an above-average player at his position for Minnesota, and his mix of talent and experience could make him a valuable commodity on the open market. He's also relatively young at 27 years old.
Vikings running back Adrian Peterson certainly appreciates Loadholt's work and hopes the team will be able to retain his services. After he nearly broke the NFL single-season rushing record, it's not surprising that Peterson is happy with the guys up front.
Loadholt finished out the regular season strong, allowing zero sacks after Week 9. If there was an issue for him last year, it was the fact that he was charged with 11 penalties, but that's not likely to do anything to damage his value. This close to the free agency period, Loadholt may want to go ahead and see just how he is valued in the eyes of other franchises.
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