Phil Loadholt never wanted to be anywhere other than Minnesota. As a Viking. Sure it took the organization that drafted Loadholt in the second round in 2009 until the 11th hour Tuesday to prevent the mammoth right tackle from hitting free agency.
But in the end, Loadholt got everything he wanted. He got a lucrative deal – four years, $25 million.
He got the opportunity to stay put – anchoring the right side of an offensive line that will now return all five starters from a year ago.
He got his peace of mind back.
“I had let it be known publicly and privately that I wanted to be a Viking,” Loadholt said Wednesday afternoon. “I’m pretty sure that everybody knew that that was my priority coming into this situation. It took a little longer than I expected. But the business part of football is shaky. You never know what to expect. But ultimately everything ended up just right.”
No, technically Loadholt was never a free agent. The Vikings secured their new deal to re-sign him after 2 p.m. Tuesday, in the final hour before the NFL’s new league year began and free agency opened. But with the previous three-and-a-half days giving Loadholt’s agent an opportunity to measure other teams’ interest and determine a true market value, Loadholt held great leverage throughout a process that was still, in his words, stressful.
The Chicago Bears had expressed serious interest, aiming to overhaul an offensive line that has come unhinged over the past few years. And what their outside interest did was force the Vikings’ hand, causing them to reach deeper into the vault to get Loadholt the money he commanded.
He will be due to make $2.9 million in base salary in 2013 and could earn as much as $4.75 million.
Just as gratifying, Loadholt said, was the opportunity to remain a Viking, to continue plowing holes for league-MVP Adrian Peterson, to remain a part of a starting quintet up front that has seen its chemistry grow.
Loadholt said he never feared a possible departure. But he also never exhaled to feel like he would remain here for certain.
“Like I said, the business part of football is very shaky,” he said. “So it was definitely a tough time for myself and my family. You never know what can happen. So there was definitely times I was a little nervous.”
After signing Loadholt on Tuesday, General Manager Rick Spielman reiterated once again that the organization had accomplished one of the offseason’s top priorities. Spielman echoed head coach Leslie Frazier’s sentiments that Loadholt is still an ascending talent. Spielman lauded his physicality as a run blocker and his leadership skills and his continued growth under line coach Jeff Davidson.
In the end, Loadholt got what he wanted most: to stay put.
“I was thinking about coming in in ’09, being drafted here. Just the season we had last year. Adrian running for as many yards as he did last year, getting close to that (single-season) record. The continuity that I have with the guys here on the offensive line. I love playing for Coach Davidson, Coach Frazier. My family loves Minnesota. I could just keep going down the line. It was a great situation for me. I’m glad I’m back.”