[Check out my other previews:  Quarterback, Running back, Full back, Tight end, Wide out]

Bryant  McKinnie may be on the outs.  Phil Loadholt impressed in his rookie season.  Little is certain as far as depth goes at offensive tackle.  Let’s take a look at where things stand.

2009 Season

At left tackle, Bryant McKinnie started the 2009 season looking like an All-Pro.  However, as the season went on and his opponents got tougher, McKinnie began to be exposed for the mediocre player that he really is.  It got so bad that he was eventually benched in a game against the Panthers where Julius Peppers absolutely made McKinnie look like an undrafted rookie.  After allowing Favre to be abused in the NFC Championship game, MCKinnie continued to embarrass himself off the field by getting himself kicked off the NFC’s Pro Bowl team (an honor he didn’t deserve in the first place) for not showing up to practices.  McKinnie spent the week partying at clubs instead.

Second round rookie right tackle Phil Loadholt was just as abused by pass rushers as McKinnie was.  The difference, however, is that Loadholt is a rookie and can only be expected to improve.  Loadholt started out struggling but improvement was visible as the season went on.  Loadholt needs to work on some mental aspects of his game, as he was tied with Brett Favre as the most penalized member of the roster.  Struggles aside, it will not take too much improvement for Loadholt to become a Pro Bowl caliber right tackle.

Current Roster

Neither starters are free agents this season, and it seems most likely that both will be back for 2010. 

However, I can’t help but wonder if the Vikings will try to shop Bryant McKinnie.  He is coming off of his first Pro Bowl season and his stock may never be higher, despite there being a feeling amongst Vikings fans that McKinnie is over-rated, over-paid, and a P.R. nightmare.  McKinnie has a pretty hefty contract, and with the uncapped year upon us, the Vikings cut trade McKinnie without facing any cap penalties.

It seems unlikely that Loadholt isn’t a shoe-in starter at right tackle for the second year in a row.  In fact, there has been some speculation that if McKinnie is traded that Loadholt moves to the left side.  Personally, I didn’t see enough out of Loadholt to endorse a move of this nature and think it could be disastrous.  Loadholt struggles too much with pass protection and mental aspects of the game at this point to throw him into a role with that much responsibility.  If for some reason the Vikings get a left handed quarterback (no, not THAT left handed quarterback) then my opinion on the matter may change.

In addition to a possible big change at starting left tackle, the Vikings are in flux when it comes to depth at the tackle position.  Artis Hicks is 31 years old and is slated to be one of the Vikings five unrestricted free agents.  Hicks can essentially play effectively at four positions along the offensive line and his versatility allows him to be a major asset as an utility backup.  Letting Hicks leave in free agency would be a mistake.

Ryan Cook, who has starting experience at right tackle, is due to become a restricted free agent.  It would make sense for the Vikings to allow Cook to leave.  He has been unimpressive and would provide a roster spot to try and fill with a  starting-caliber offensive lineman.

Unrestricted Free Agency

I know this is getting redundant for me to keep saying, but the rules surrounding the uncapped year greatly limits the free agency abilities of a final-four team like the Vikings. 

As far as unrestricted tackles go, there are very few attractive choices to choose from.  Veteran Packers Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher both played well in the second half of the season, but their ages are a major concern for interested parties.  The Cardinals are also possibly losing Mike Gandy and Jeremy Bridges but neither possess the skills to get anyone real excited, despite being a few years younger than the Packer tackles mentioned above.

After that, there are no real options that could be considered anywhere close to an upgrade over Hicks or Cook.  It is possible that more options become available as teams start to cut players, but it seems unlikely that the Vikings find any worthwhile tackles in free agency.

Restricted Free Agency

The restricted crop is highlighted by Ravens left tackle Jared Gaither.  At only age 24, Gaither is a mammoth and has already established himself as one of the NFL’s best left tackles despite entering the league via the alternate draft. 

Behind him are restricted free agents like Jamaal Brown (Saints), Marcus McNeill (Chargers), Willie Colon (Steelers), and Charlie Johnson (Colts).  Any of these guys would be worth a fair amount of compensation for the Vikings to obtain but it seems unlikely that they get the chance.  Offensive tackles that have performed as well as these guys did in 2009 do not grow on trees and their respective teams will do everything in their power to keep them.  I would have no problem with the Vikings giving up their first rounder to obtain Marcus McNeill.

However, getting their hands on one of these restricted players is not an easy feat and I suspect it is not a real possibility.

Draft Possibilities

Russell Okung and Bruce Campbell headline what is a fairly deep draft class at offensive tackle.  These guys will be off the board long before the Vikings select at #30.

After that is a slew of quality tackles, however, and one is sure to be available when the Vikings are on the clock.  Bryan Bulaga, Anthony Davis, Charles Brown, and Trent Williams are all worthy of a first rounder at this point.  The only guy that makes no sense for the Vikings is Trent Williams, as I don’t see him playing on the left side. 

However, if Bulaga, Davis, or Brown fall to the Vikings at #30 then they will definitely warrant consideration. There are many decent options later in the draft to fill the backup role on Minnesota’s roster. 

Trade Possibilities

Trade speculation at the tackle position will continue to center around Bryant McKinnie.  I would be surprised in only a limited amount if the Vikings were able to swing a trade with a team like Seattle (#6 & #14), Oakland (#8), Buffalo (#9), or San Francisco (#13 & #16 or 17) as they all would love to get their hands on a “Pro Bowl” left tackle.

Trades of this nature are unlikely but if the Vikings could get a Top 15 pick out of McKinnie, get rid of the headaches he causes, and ditch his contract without consequence then I would be all for it.  Besides, this would increase their chances of getting one of the top tackle prospects in this draft.


I am going to go out on a limb here and say that the Vikings will not trade McKinnie.  While I would love to see it happen, and I think it makes a certain amount of sense, I just have trouble seeing the Vikings take that risk.  There would be no fool-proof back up plan and the blind side would likely be left to a rookie to protect.

So, I think McKinnie and Loadholt will be back as the starters.

I also think that Hicks will be re-signed as the primary backup at both positions.  I do not expect them to tender Ryan Cook, however, and think they’ll bring in a mid-to-late round rookie to compete with Drew Radovich for a roster spot.

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13 Responses to “OFFSEASON PREVIEW: Offensive Tackle”

  1. Matt T. says:

    Nice analysis. I may be in the minority, but I’m fine going into the 2010 season with McKinnie and Loadholt back at tackles. Sullivan has a year starting under his belt and Hutch will be healthy.

    With Favre coming back (yes, I think he will), I’ll take the production the offense had this year with the two tackles. Favre had great numbers, AP had 1400 yards and 18 TDs. And there was a stretch in the middle of the season where it didn’t seem like Favre was on his back for a month – maybe no sacks in 4 games?

    McKinnie has some PR work to do, but it’s not a reason to move one of the top-5 LTs in the NFC, especially with no sure solution waiting.

    • Purple Charlie says:

      Matt, You have good points, But hopefully they address the Offensive line with a couple draft picks or possibly F.A.

  2. CO Vike Fan says:

    Keep McKinnie, risk of the alternative isn’t worth it. I think he had some foot/ankle problems in the last few games that contributed to some of the problems.

    Note to BMac – Please act like a professional this offseason, get healthy, and get ready for next year. Don’t be an idiot, if you want to party have it at your house!! You can get those $1000 bottles of champange for like 500 bucks and buy twice as many as Braylon Edwards!

  3. krugjr says:

    something tells me BMac worked hard enough to get his extension and now his real priority is to record rap music and mount groupies…..coaches and players would know better than me, but if what I say is true, then trade up in rd 1 for an impact player and move on…..but nothing will happen until thurs night, rd 1!

    GO VIKES!!!!!

    • Fragile Freds says:


      Did you say “mount groupies?”, how did we get to this place? Poor pass protection, can’t run block, bad corn rows, metal pole across bouncers head, pro bowl reject….but mounting groupies? Must have been that picture of Lil Kimberly. It’s going to be a long long off season if Freds guy Krugs is playing the mounting groupies card this early in the off season.

      Brian will be starting next year, he’s a kook, not a good guy, and generally a richard, but he’s better than most. Imagine Banjo running for his life with a rookie left tackle?

      If we can get something for him of great value, then send him and his rap a packin’. If not, keep him.

      Krugs…clean it up dude, Freds is beginning to worry about you! Mounting groupies…sheesh.

      AK – What do you know about this communist guard from UMASS?

      • Adam Warwas says:

        Freds, I assume you are talking about Ducasse? He’s a big dude (about 340 lbs.) that seems durable and somewhat versatile, as he has played right tackle.

        His best traits are simply his superb physical abilities (really long arms) and general bulk and strength.

        He struggles with fundamentals like footwork and reading blitzes, but that can be coached.

        Overall, I think he could be great but would need a few years as a project. The Vikings might fall in love with him because they love to misplace giant linemen into their zone blocking scheme, and may be willing to snag him in the second…

        I personally wouldn’t consider him until the third (if he’s still there) because of the great steals that will be available at the CB position late in the second round.

      • bigjohnny84 says:

        Cmon Freds, better than most? Give me a break, average or below at best all things considered.

      • krugjr says:

        freds, ok, ok, thanks for pulling me back in line….for me to go from Pastor Krug to soft porn only shows I haven’t recovered from the loss yet………we all have had the “wild ride” for part of our lives, granted, but my guess is we all kept it private…..BMac sticks it right out there in public for the whole world to see, and he seems to enjoy that part of it, and that’s what worries me the most about his future in Purple (the boat party, the you tube videos, miami, etc)…pay someone that kind of money and I expect a little more “dedication” to the trade…..I see a little too much of the “me first” in him, and I’d prefer a team guy, and something tells me the Wilfs have told Spielman to find one!

  4. bigjohnny84 says:

    Dont forget there is some serious downside to keeping the big dope. If anything happens, no matter how small, this offseason Roger Goodell will throw the book at him. Bmac just doesnt seem to have the desire to be great or the brains either.

    • Purple Charlie says:

      Johnny, He makes it hard to want him starting next year, He just seems to have no common sense at all, I wish someone would fall to our laps in the first 2 rounds that would be a starting caliber tackle…

      • bigjohnny84 says:

        Charlie, I would hope they are exploring other options. Bmac isnt exactly reliable and I for one dont trust him one bit.

  5. Todd Flaxton says:

    All of Mister MacKinnley’s troubles are a direct result of his involvement with Mister Random Thoughts Guy. What a terrible blogger and horrible person.


  6. Lost Viking says:

    McKinnie embarrassed himself and the League. He performed poorly against Peppers but otherwise his play was solid. When Hutch is healthy they are able to move the line.

    McKinnie’s behavior could be an indicator of future trouble. He has two strikes with the League and Vike need some type of insurance.

    Loadholt played well but is still raw. Plays a little soft and agree checks out mentally from time to time.

    Conclusion: Vike will select OL help but in the form of a guard. Iaputi (sp?) was one of most talked about players at Seniors workout. A guard plays now. A tackle won’t start. If Iaputi falls to #30 he would solidify interior of line for AD.

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