Vikings could let free agent tackle Phil Loadholt walk


Dec 23, 2012; Houston, TX, USA; Minnesota Vikings tackle Phil Loadholt (71) celebrates a touchdown in front of Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt (99) during the fourth quarter at Reliant Stadium. The Vikings won 23-6. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

Vikings free agent right tackle Phil Loadholt played well this season and may possibly be the best offensive tackle available on the free agent market.

That doesn’t necessarily mean the team will be anxious to re-sign him.

According to Mike Florio of NBC Sports, there will be plenty of tackles available in free agency and an influx of quality rookie tackles in the upcoming draft.

"Still, plenty of alternatives will be available in free agency, from Demetress Bell(who was cut this week by the Eagles) to Sam Baker to Gosder Cherilus to Winston Justice to Phil Loadholt to Bryant McKinnie to Andre Smith to Jermon Bushrod to Long, Albert, and Vollmer."

The combination of a deep draft class and a large free agent crop of tackles puts less pressure on the Vikings to invest a big chunk of cap space to re-sign the 27-year-old Loadholt.

Rookie contracts are extremely valuable to NFL teams, simply because NFL scouting is so good now that a team can land a quality player for a fraction of what a free agent player in the open market can make. Last year 28-year-old free agent right tackle Eric Winston received a four-year $22 million deal from the Chiefs. Browns right tackle Mitchell Schwartz, a second round pick in 2012, had a very good season—he’s under a rookie four-year, $5.17 million contract.

Right tackles are in less demand than left tackles as left tackles block the blind side of quarterbacks, requiring a higher skill set. In a typical draft, whereas left tackles typically go in the first round, right tackles start going off the board no earlier than the second round.

If scouts are right about the quality and quantity of tackles available in the 2013 NFL Draft, in theory, Minnesota could find a starting right tackle in the middle rounds, making it hard to justify a $20-plus million contract for Loadholt.