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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Another starting tackle hits the market, but that could be bad news for Vikings

By Matthew Coller

Whitworth

When the Denver Broncos signed left tackle Russell Okung to a five-year, $56 million contract with zero guaranteed dollars, it was assumed that if he didn’t perform at a high level in 2016, he would be let go. And that’s exactly what happened. Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer reported Thursday that Denver will not pick up Okung’s option, making the former Pro Bowler a free agent.

Okung is the third starting left tackle to become a free agent in the last week or so and another was traded. The New York Jets declined an option on Ryan Clady as did the Jaguars on Kelvin Meachum, while the Miami Dolphins dealt Branden Albert to Jacksonville for tight end Julius Thomas.

While Okung’s release means another possibility for the Vikings, it is likely more detrimental to their chances of filling the left tackle position with a quality free agent simply by virtue of having more teams competing for the same few players.

Minnesota general manager Rick Spielman told reporters on Thursday that the team will keep the future in mind while approaching this offseason. Sam Bradford may end up with a contract extension and cornerback Xavier Rhodes will likely be made one of the highest paid cornerbacks in the NFL if he wants to stay with the Vikings. So even with a large amount of cap space (that could be around $40 million if the Vikings release Adrian Peterson), spending all the way to the cap this offseason might be risky.

Cincinnati’s Andrew Whitworth said this week he is “intrigued” to hit the free agent market. At 35, he is still one of the league’s best and will very likely become the highest paid tackle in the NFL. A few weeks ago, the Vikings would have been one of only a handful of teams competing for his services. Now you can add the Dolphins and Broncos to the list of teams that will be calling Whitworth. They join teams like the New York Giants, Seattle Seahawks, Jacksonville Jaguars and Los Angeles Chargers, who would like to greatly improve their tackle situations.

Not only will the Vikings have immense competition for the top left and right tackle candidates, but there are more teams desperate to throw money at any tackle that has shown potential a la Minnesota free agent Matt Kalil.

Spielman said Thursday the Vikings felt very confident in Kalil’s direction before he suffered an injured hip two weeks into the season. It’s not only possible, but probable that the Vikings will entertain re-signing Kalil. Bringing him back would make the most sense on a prove-it deal – short term with significant money – or on a contract like Okung signed that would allow the Vikings to cut ties whenever they see fit. With Denver now searching for a left tackle, signing Kalil to a team-friendly deal just got harder.

Okung should be considered by the Vikings. A film review of his Week 16 and 17 matchups with Kansas City and Oakland revealed solid play without a sack allowed while mostly lining up against Khalil Mack and Tamba Hali – though the Broncos were sure to give him help by using tight ends to chip and play-action to get the D-line moving. Pro Football Focus rated Okung 38th overall. His career ratings have consistently been mid-pack.

The post Another starting tackle hits the market, but that could be bad news for Vikings appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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