Of the many decisions the NFC North champions must make this offseason, one of the more interesting ones centers on left tackle Matt Kalil.
Last offseason, the Vikings exercised their fifth-year option on Kalil, the fourth overall pick in the 2012 draft. That gave them contractual control of Kalil for 2016, which will be the final year of his rookie deal.
Because Kalil was a top-10 pick at a premium position, his option figure is an $11.1 million base salary, which would make him one of the NFL’s highest-paid left tackles in 2016. That salary is only guaranteed for injury, though, and Kalil survived the 2015 season relatively unscathed.
So if the Vikings want, they can cut Kalil by the start of the league year on March 9 without any cap penalties and free up $11.1 million in space.
Now if you are rushing out the door to help Kalil pack his things, not so fast, my friend. The Vikings have good reason to keep him around.
Kalil rebounded from his abysmal 2014 season to play much better in 2015. He was still subpar, especially compared to the guy who made the Pro Bowl as a rookie. But his play is trending in the right direction, and maybe new offensive line coach Tony Sparano can coax quality play out of him.
Plus, the fact that he was such a high draft selection, not to mention the first pick general manager Rick Spielman made as the final say on draft day, means that Spielman probably won’t bail on Kalil before he has to.
Besides, the Vikings don’t have a better option on their roster at the moment, and it would be a gamble for them to give up on Kalil now and hope that they find a suitable replacement in free agency or the draft.
Last night’s Super Bowl, with Broncos pass rushers Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware taking over the game, was yet another reminder of what can happen if you don’t have solid pass protectors at both tackle positions.
The Vikings have pledged to get better up front after neglecting that need last offseason. And they would be wise to invest in the tackle position no matter what. But we will see if they think cutting Kalil is part of the solution.