And there you have it. Just like that, the Super Bowl is over and the focus of the entire NFL shifts from the 2016 season and we now begin to look forward to the free agency, the NFL Draft and the 2017 season. Fortunately or unfortunately for the Minnesota Vikings missing the playoffs gave them a bit of an opportunity for a head start on their offseason mission.
So, the debate kicks off. Who’s important, who’s the top target, and where do we go from here.
I’m going to throw out a motion for us to start this conversation at the top because there is an argument to be had that there is one player out there that should be this team’s number one target. I’m talking land this player and the rest of your free agency plans will then be able to fall into place. But there’s an interesting piece to this story…it wasn’t too long ago that this player was the most hated player in Minnesota
Figure it out yet?
Here we go, you guys, Left Tackle Matt Kalil is THE MOST IMPORTANT player for the Minnesota Vikings to target.
Gather your composure, contain your laughter and let me explain myself here.
For a team like the Minnesota Vikings who have two right handed quarterbacks in the fold with Bradford and Bridgewater, it goes without saying that the left tackle position is the most important one on the offensive line. Odds are they square off against the oppositions number one pass rusher all while protecting the “blind side” of the passer. That said, it’s not a novel idea that they address that situation and shore up the left tackle spot.
Because of its accentuated importance, it’s very rare that a team will let a quality left tackle slip away in free agency let alone part ways with a star. Heck, even the Browns have been able to seduce Joe Thomas for ten seasons keeping him in Cleveland on a team with only one winning season (2007) over that span. You flat out do not strike “gold” with a left tackle through free agency. Even if you’re planning to play the field with the hopes of striking “silver” with a free agent left tackle, odds are you’re going to have to overpay him pretty severely. There’s almost always another team out there that will and money talks man.
So you won’t find gold, you’ll overpay for silver, how about finding a “diamond” in the rough through the draft. Well, the Vikings are starting on the wrong foot already by not having a first round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. You won’t hear me knock the Bradford trade as it saved the 2016 & 2017 seasons for the Vikings, but it does hurt when you look at the present deficiencies across the front of the line. Take it one step further and you’ll notice that Rick Spielman and the Vikings front office don’t have the best track record when it comes to drafting offensive linemen over the past few years. Many of their selections are non-factors, some are not with the team and others are on their way out of the league. Maybe the best offensive line pick they’ve had was the most obvious one back in 2012.
And that brings us full circle back to Matt Kalil.
Kalil is coming off of a season ending injury back in 2016 and hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire since having an impressive rookie campaign. That leaves only one team in the league that has the full book on his skillset and on his health, the Minnesota Vikings. They know exactly what injuries might be lingering, what ailments might hold him back from doing and how his specific skillset fits into the scheme here with the Vikings. They will enter the free agent market with the most knowledge on Kalil as a player and a person.
The leverage side of the conversation could go both ways. Kalil realizes the Vikings are desperate, but the Vikings realize that Kalil has to prove he’s healthy. Matt might be one of the more tantalizing names on the open market for LTs, but the Vikings understand he hasn’t performed the best. This conversation could go back and forth for a while, but it ends with the realization that Matt Kalil could be had and likely at a reasonable price. That’s not to say cheap, but you could get a known commodity for a price that won’t break the bank.
By not breaking the bank and landing Kalil, that leaves the team a decent chunk of change to continue working their way across the offensive line looking for replacements. Boone is a lock, no matter what you think about his first year in purple. From there, it’s likely that you’ll see new faces at center, right guard and right tackle so that money you save on Kalil and any money you clear from renegotiating or cutting ties with Adrian Peterson could be used to lure other linemen through free agency.
All of this then pens Matt Kalil as the most important and most alluring free agent target for the Minnesota Vikings in 2017.
Of course there are some caveats that need to be mentioned here.
I referenced the fact that the Vikings “know the most” about Kalil and his health, that opens the door for the possibility that they’ve dubbed some nagging knee injury as concerning or degenerative. That would be a red flag.
They’ve also had the most open dialogue, technically the only open dialogue with him as other teams are not allowed to chat until the negotiating window opens. They may already know that Matt is looking to move on. They may know that Matt does or doesn’t butt heads with one of the coaches in the locker room. Or they may know that Matt has a desire to “head home” and play for his hometown team. Those things factor in.
At the end of the day, I do believe that Kalil is one of the more interesting options for the Vikings to go after when the bell rings. I think he’ll require a hefty investment but not the same kind of cash that we’re talking about for Andrew Whitworth, Riley Rieff or some others.
I don’t have a direct line speed dial with Rick Spielman, but I think they should be honing in on making it work with Kalil as priority number one as the plan starts to unfold for free agency.