Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


What to do with offensive free agents: Phil Loadholt, Jerome Felton remain top priorities

Posted by: under Vikings, Leslie Frazier, Adrian Peterson, Leslie Frazier, Phil Loadholt, Vikings draft Updated: February 18, 2013 - 9:30 AM

The NFL Combine officially gets underway Thursday at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. And while the hype of the event will center mostly around the 40-yard dash times, bench press reps and shuttle runs of the more than 300 draft prospects invited to participate, some of the most significant action of the week occurs behind the scenes as NFL general managers and front office personnel meet with agents to begin discussing the approach of free agency.

At this stage, league rules state that teams are only allowed to talk with the agents of their own players. So with the Vikings needing to make decisions on 10 unrestricted free agents who are scheduled to hit the open market March 12, here’s our quick update on where we think things might be headed.

Today, we look at the six offensive free agents.

Phil Loadholt

Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman is fully sincere when he expresses his desire to retain continuity on the offensive line. Which makes Loadholt, the starting right tackle, a top in-house priority. But the Vikings don’t have full control of the situation. Loadholt and agent Gary Uberstine will almost certainly take a pulse on outside interest to get a feel for what kind of demand exists and what kind of asking price they can set. Loadholt has shown growth in his four seasons in the league. And he continues to be a mauler in the running game. The Vikings would certainly love to have him back. And he’d love to be back. But there are also business dynamics at play that will create some complexity.

The likely move: This one could get tricky. In some ways, it’s a bit of a surprise Loadholt hasn’t already re-signed. But that could be an indication that the tackle and his representatives believe there might be more out there for them than anything the Vikings have proposed to this point. Diminishing the Vikings’ leverage is the reality that there aren’t likely to be many top-tier replacement options for Loadholt on the free agent market or in the draft. And it’s hard to believe that Kevin Murphy, a practice squader in 2012, or DeMarcus Love, a sixth-round draft pick in 2011 who has yet to be active for an NFL game, would provide enough confidence for the Vikings to let Loadholt get away. Of course, there’s always the option of stamping Loadholt with a franchise tag or transition tag. But those options seem highly unlikely given the price of doing so for offensive linemen.

Jerome Felton

This should be the Vikings’ easiest decision amongst their in-house free agents. Last offseason, Spielman and head coach Leslie Frazier were convinced Adrian Peterson could see a spike in productivity if he had a rugged and dependable fullback ahead of him. Then Felton came to town on a one-year deal, helped spark Peterson to a 2,097-yard rushing season and made his first Pro Bowl. The 26-year-old bruiser appreciates the opportunity he was given and the situation he is in and had made it very clear that he wants to stick around for a while. Which is exactly what the Vikings seem to want too. At this point, it’s simply a matter of Felton’s camp and the Vikings front office getting on the same page with Felton’s value and then setting the appropriate length of the next contract.

The likely move: Felton will almost certainly be re-signed. But it may not necessarily come before the free agent market opens. As a matter of business principal, Felton and his agent will listen to other teams to gauge an appropriate market value, then push the Vikings to deliver accordingly. Still, this deal should get done without many headaches.

Jerome Simpson

Signed to a one-year deal worth approximately $2 million last April, Simpson had a 2012 run that was majorly disappointing. He missed the season’s first three games due to a league suspension, flashed promise in his Vikings debut Detroit, then suffered an odd lower back/leg injury that hindered him in Week 5, made him inactive in Week 6 and then limited him to 11 catches and 126 yards over the next seven games. Yeah, this isn’t what anybody had in mind a year ago. And as the season dragged on, the effervescence Simpson showed during training camp was replaced by a frustrated and somewhat testy deportment.

The likely move: It’s up to the Vikings to determine just how much Simpson’s back ailment contributed to his production struggles. If there’s a) a belief that a return to full health would significantly help the production spike; and b) a cheap deal that can be reached, don’t be surprised if Simpson is brought back for a second go-around. Keep in mind, the needed overhaul of the Vikings’ receiving corps will take more than one offseason to complete. And if you’re looking at the receivers who were on the active roster at season’s end, that’s a list that includes Simpson; Michael Jenkins (approaching his 31st birthday and a candidate to soon be released); Devin Aromashodu (also a free agent) and Stephen Burton (seven catches, 73 yards in his first two seasons.) You can’t start totally over at that receiver position and Simpson is probably worth another roll of the dice.

Geoff Schwartz

Understand this: Schwartz has made it very clear he has no intention of going into 2013 as a reserve. So unless the Vikings can find a starting spot for him, he’s as good as gone. Schwartz logged all his time in 2012 at right guard, sharing snaps with Brandon Fusco from Weeks 6-15. But Fusco, who has a big fan in Spielman, started the season as the undisputed starter and ended it that way too.

The likely move: Schwartz missed all of 2011 following hip surgery and then was derailed in training camp last summer by sports hernia surgery. He was decent in the time he played but still lacked the tempo the Vikings hoped to see him play with. As a result, he never did enough with his limited opportunity to stand out and overtake Fusco. There certainly should be opportunities elsewhere for Schwartz to start and he will be more than happy to chase whichever one suits him best. So his one-year stop through Minnesota is likely over.

Devin Aromashodu

Selfless veteran. Good teammate. Hard worker. These are all things the Vikings love. Problem is Aromashodu has never quite emerged as the consistent playmaker he seemingly has the potential to be. In two seasons and 31 games as a Viking, he has totaled 37 catches, 650 yards and one touchdown. He’s had only five games in Minnesota with more than two catches.

The likely move: Time to cut ties. Again, the Vikings coaching staff can talk all they want about Aromashodu’s crisp route running and intelligence and easygoing nature. But he just hasn’t delivered enough on game days. It’s time to search for new answers at receiver.

Joe Berger

A smart and versatile lineman with eight NFL seasons under his belt, Berger proved to be a serviceable fill-in at both center and guard when called upon in 2011. In 2012, he wasn’t needed.

The likely move: Berger is one of those “Either way” guys. As in, if he’s back, OK. If he’s not, no big deal. The Vikings lucked out with the health of their o-line starters this past season. Berger certainly provides a bit of depth if he’s kept around. But it also wouldn’t be that difficult to find an equal or better replacement either.

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New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Seattle
Dallas 66 3rd Qtr
Orlando 41
Sacramento 67 3rd Qtr 10:16
Indiana 52
Toronto 65 3rd Qtr
Washington 50
Houston 41 2nd Qtr 3:42
Detroit 51
Philadelphia 22 2nd Qtr 5:25
Atlanta 38
Cleveland 18 1st Qtr 5:22
Minnesota 11
Oklahoma City 17 1st Qtr 2:54
Memphis 20
Portland 7:30 PM
Milwaukee
LA Clippers 8:00 PM
San Antonio
Charlotte 8:00 PM
Denver
Phoenix 9:30 PM
Golden State
Washington 0 FINAL(OT)
Montreal 1
NY Islanders 1 FINAL
Detroit 4
Arizona 2 FINAL
Ottawa 7
Los Angeles 0 2nd Prd 6:37
Boston 0
Florida 0 2nd Prd 8:20
New Jersey 2
Carolina 1 2nd Prd 7:24
NY Rangers 2
Toronto 0 2nd Prd 13:22
Philadelphia 1
Dallas 1 2nd Prd 14:35
Winnipeg 0
Columbus 0 2nd Prd
Tampa Bay 1
Edmonton 9:00 PM
Calgary
Chicago 9:30 PM
San Jose
Boston College 49 FINAL
Clemson 64
Western Mich 63 FINAL
Eastern Mich 69
NC State 81 FINAL
Georgia Tech 80
Wisconsin 74 FINAL
Iowa 63
Stony Brook 48 FINAL
New Hampshire 63
Notre Dame 72 FINAL
Pittsburgh 76
Providence 66 FINAL
St Johns 75
Davidson 70 FINAL
Saint Josephs 75
Xavier 82 FINAL
Seton Hall 90
Tulane 37 FINAL
Temple 55
Auburn 63 FINAL
Tennessee 71
Texas Tech 58 FINAL
West Virginia 77
Arkansas 56 FINAL
Florida 57
Penn State 58 FINAL
Illinois 60
Lipscomb 73 FINAL
Stetson 75
South Florida 71 FINAL
Tulsa 78
Bradley 58 FINAL
Indiana State 64
UMass Lowell 69 FINAL
Binghamton 76
Green Bay 62 FINAL
Cleveland State 76
Georgetown 67 FINAL
Creighton 40
Coll of Charleston 68 FINAL
Delaware 71
Villanova 68 FINAL
DePaul 55
Vermont 65 FINAL
Hartford 46
TCU 66 FINAL
Iowa State 83
Kennesaw St 51 FINAL
Jacksonville 50
Kansas State 57 FINAL
Kansas 68
Boston Univ 86 FINAL
Lehigh 89
Illinois State 48 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 45
Albany 77 FINAL
Maine 59
Butler 72 FINAL
Marquette 68
LSU 67 FINAL
Miss State 73
Mount St Marys 77 FINAL
Sacred Heart 71
Richmond 64 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 55
Virginia Tech 70 FINAL
Wake Forest 73
IUPU-Ft Wayne 75 FINAL
Nebraska Omaha 65
Arkansas State 43 FINAL
Georgia State 74
Loyola-Maryland 77 FINAL
Army 71
Tenn Tech 53 FINAL
Belmont 71
Bethune-Cookman 61 FINAL
Florida A&M 44
Valparaiso 70 FINAL
Ill-Chicago 65
UAB 65 FINAL
TX-San Antonio 57
Idaho State 69 FINAL
North Dakota 80
Evansville 65 FINAL
Drake 70
Rutgers 64 FINAL
Indiana 72
Ball State 73 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 79
Southern U 59 FINAL
Alcorn State 51
UNC-Wilmington 76 FINAL
Drexel 85
Coastal Carolina 64 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 66
Morgan State 48 FINAL
Howard 64
William & Mary 84 FINAL
James Madison 65
North Carolina 68 FINAL
Louisville 78
Coppin State 82 FINAL
MD-Eastern Shore 92
Ole Miss 67 FINAL
Missouri 47
Wichita State 54 FINAL
Northern Iowa 70
Loyola Marymount 76 FINAL
Pacific 71
Winthrop 66 FINAL
Radford 73
George Washington 55 FINAL
Rhode Island 59
Bryant 71 FINAL
Robert Morris 68
Long Island 64 FINAL
St Francis-NY 81
Fair-Dickinson 63 FINAL
St Francis-PA 68
Massachusetts 60 FINAL
Saint Louis 56
Georgia 50 FINAL
South Carolina 67
Central Conn St 55 FINAL
Wagner 86
SIU Edwardsville 54 FINAL
Eastern Ill 57
Ohio 69 FINAL
Central Mich 74
Eastern Ky 66 FINAL
Morehead State 57
Incarnate Word 69 FINAL
Nicholls 58
Campbell 63 FINAL
UNC-Asheville 70
Vanderbilt 58 FINAL
Texas A&M 69
Western Carolina 78 FINAL
UNC Greensboro 73
Detroit 74 FINAL
Milwaukee 78
Idaho 95 FINAL
Eastern Wash 98
Marshall 57 FINAL
Louisiana Tech 81
Jackson State 62 FINAL
Miss Valley St 75
Houston Baptist 52 FINAL
Sam Houston St 63
Louisiana 72 FINAL
Texas State 63
Denver 39 FINAL
South Dakota St 69
Oral Roberts 73 FINAL
South Dakota 72
South Alabama 61 FINAL
ULM 67
Texas 60 FINAL
Baylor 83
Citadel 73 FINAL
Chattanooga 78
Fresno State 57 FINAL
Colorado State 80
Yale 65 FINAL
Cornell 57
Ark-Pine Bluff 65 FINAL
Grambling St 53
Nebraska 42 FINAL
Minnesota 60
Purdue 68 FINAL
Northwestern 60
Alabama A&M 78 2nd Half 6:00
Prairie View 51
Dartmouth 53 FINAL
Princeton 64
Pepperdine 67 FINAL
St Marys-CA 62
Delaware State 74 FINAL
SC State 78
Western Ky 73 FINAL
Southern Miss 62
Nevada 55 FINAL
Wyoming 63
Hampton 54 2nd Half 3:28
Norfolk State 57
NC A&T 57 2nd Half 0:57
Savannah State 50
Akron 36 2nd Half 12:08
Bowling Green 41
Colgate 50 2nd Half 9:50
Bucknell 49
FIU 69 2nd Half 9:20
Charlotte 51
Brown 55 2nd Half 10:41
Columbia 62
George Mason 28 2nd Half 13:24
Duquesne 37
NC Central 53 2nd Half 9:53
East Tenn St 44
Saint Peters 34 2nd Half 12:40
Iona 31
Alabama 33 2nd Half 14:15
Kentucky 52
Char Southern 47 2nd Half 12:50
Liberty 42
Hawaii 32 2nd Half 14:37
Long Beach State 38
New Orleans 23 2nd Half
McNeese State 32
Lafayette 63 2nd Half 6:50
Navy 61
Elon 31 2nd Half 14:57
Northeastern 46
Fla Atlantic 41 2nd Half 12:00
Old Dominion 43
Harvard 51 2nd Half 12:41
Penn 22
La Salle 39 2nd Half 14:18
St Bonaventure 35
Furman 36 2nd Half 11:12
Samford 43
Duke 34 2nd Half 12:21
Virginia 43
Mercer 38 2nd Half 9:47
Wofford 41
Northern Ky 42 2nd Half 14:14
Fla Gulf Coast 52
USC Upstate 56 2nd Half 11:50
North Florida 56
Longwood 50 2nd Half 11:18
Presbyterian 36
Ark-Little Rock 28 2nd Half
Ga Southern 33
Abilene Christian 39 2nd Half
Lamar 37
TX A&M-CC 21 2nd Half
Stephen F Austin 25
SE Missouri St 12 1st Half 14:24
Austin Peay 8
CS-Northridge 16 1st Half 11:51
UC Riverside 6
Towson 19 1st Half 12:43
Hofstra 13
UT Martin 5 1st Half 18:31
Murray State 4
San Jose St 4 1st Half 12:02
New Mexico 17
Rice 15 1st Half 12:29
North Texas 13
Toledo 16 1st Half 11:47
Northern Ill 10
Oklahoma 7 1st Half 14:06
Oklahoma State 11
San Francisco 15 1st Half 11:19
San Diego 21
Utah State 7 1st Half 13:17
San Diego St 11
Northwestern St 17 1st Half 14:20
SE Louisiana 14
UCF 11 1st Half 11:48
SMU 17
Southern Ill 7:05 PM
Missouri State
Troy 7:15 PM
Texas-Arlington
Jacksonville St 7:30 PM
Tennessee St
Alabama State 7:30 PM
Texas Southern
Stanford 7:30 PM
Washington St
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BYU
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New Mexico St
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UNLV
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CS-Bakersfield
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Portland State
Montana 9:05 PM
Sacramento St
Colorado 9:30 PM
UCLA
UMKC 9:30 PM
Utah Valley U
Mount St Marys 64 FINAL
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Texas-El Paso 53 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 74
Arkansas State 61 FINAL
Georgia State 47
Bryant 84 FINAL
Robert Morris 87
Central Conn St 83 FINAL
Wagner 67
Fairleigh Dickinson 78 FINAL
St Francis-PA 60
Long Island 53 FINAL
St Francis-NY 62
Bethune-Cookman 70 FINAL
Florida A&M 57
Longwood 56 FINAL
Campbell 68
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Winthrop 77
Louisiana Tech 68 FINAL
Marshall 67
Ohio U 74 FINAL
Central Michigan 66
Western Mich 61 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 53
Coppin State 58 FINAL
MD-Eastern Shore 66
Incarnate Word 34 FINAL
Nicholls 67
Samford 46 FINAL
East Tenn St 48
Western Carolina 72 FINAL
Furman 84
Gardner-Webb 71 FINAL
Coastal Carolina 65
Liberty 58 FINAL
High Point 41
Presbyterian 46 FINAL
UNC-Asheville 59
Kent State 67 FINAL
Akron 74
Northern Ill 65 FINAL
Ball State 62
Houston 66 FINAL
Cincinnati 69
SIU-Edwardsville 65 FINAL
Eastern Illinois 48
Eastern Kentucky 58 FINAL
Morehead St 76
Holy Cross 67 FINAL
American Univ 61
Army 62 FINAL
Loyola-Maryland 53
Niagara 53 FINAL
Manhattan 46
Lehigh 78 FINAL
Boston U 71
Navy 65 FINAL
Lafayette 60
Saint Josephs 57 FINAL
Davidson 52
Duquesne 56 FINAL
Fordham 46
George Washington 87 FINAL
George Mason 52
St Bonaventure 77 FINAL
Massachusetts 57
Milwaukee 64 FINAL
Youngstown St 87
Jacksonville 78 FINAL
Kennesaw St 64
North Florida 49 FINAL
USC Upstate 61
St Marys-CA 53 FINAL
Pepperdine 49
Nebraska Omaha 49 FINAL
IUPUI 68
Houston Baptist 67 FINAL
Sam Houston St 74
Mercer 59 FINAL
(25) Chattanooga 71
No Dakota State 52 FINAL
South Dakota St 82
Oral Roberts 70 FINAL
South Dakota 93
Southern Miss 63 FINAL
Western Ky 61
TX-San Antonio 57 FINAL
UAB 73
East Carolina 67 FINAL
Tulane 63
South Florida 57 FINAL
Memphis 53
Buffalo 75 FINAL
Eastern Michigan 53
New Mexico St 74 FINAL
TX-Pan American 71
Utah Valley U 58 FINAL
UMKC 61
Jackson State 71 FINAL
Miss Valley St 74
Louisiana 83 FINAL
Texas State 81
South Alabama 53 FINAL
ULM 55
Saint Louis 72 FINAL
Dayton 87
Cleveland State 72 FINAL
Oakland 64
Grand Canyon 76 FINAL
Chicago State 51
UCLA 65 FINAL
Oregon 67
Washington St 56 FINAL
(12) Stanford 75
Kansas State 41 FINAL
Texas Tech 38
UNLV 91 FINAL
Air Force 79
UCF 61 FINAL
Tulsa 70
UNC Greensboro 64 FINAL
Wofford 77
Delaware State 62 FINAL
SC State 64
San Diego State 70 FINAL
Utah State 59
Sacramento St 86 FINAL
Montana 94
Northern Colorado 52 FINAL
Weber State 59
Hampton 66 FINAL
Norfolk State 71
NC A&T 53 FINAL
Savannah State 48
Alabama A&M 64 FINAL
Prairie View 81
Toledo 64 FINAL
Bowling Green 48
Ark-Pine Bluff 56 FINAL
Grambling 75
Southern U 59 FINAL
Alcorn State 51
Marist 63 FINAL
Iona 58
Bucknell 41 FINAL
Colgate 54
North Dakota 69 FINAL
Idaho State 75
Ark-Little Rock 58 FINAL
Georgia Southern 44
BYU 58 FINAL
Santa Clara 56
Gonzaga 85 FINAL
Portland 63
Pacific 84 FINAL
Loyola Marymount 61
Abilene Christian 72 FINAL
Lamar 76
Colorado State 49 FINAL
Fresno State 53
New Mexico 64 FINAL
San Jose St 62
UC Davis 60 FINAL
UC Santa Barbara 54
San Diego 74 FINAL
San Francisco 69
New Orleans 58 FINAL
McNeese State 82
TX A&M-CC 55 FINAL
Stephen F Austin 64
Old Dominion 72 FINAL
Florida Atlantic 44
Tenn Tech 53 FINAL
Belmont 59
Eastern Washington 98 FINAL
Idaho 95
Stetson 82 FINAL
Lipscomb 77
Washington 58 FINAL
California 82
USC 35 FINAL
(7) Oregon State 68
IUPU-Ft Wayne 55 FINAL
Western Ill 59
Northwestern St 52 FINAL
SE Louisiana 58
SE Missouri St 62 FINAL
Austin Peay 70
Portland State 46 FINAL
Montana State 63
Columbia 76 FINAL
Brown 85
Charlotte 81 FINAL
FIU 62
Morgan State 77 FINAL
Howard 64
(19) Princeton 83 FINAL
Dartmouth 65
Penn 74 FINAL
Harvard 69
UT Martin 95 FINAL
Murray State 85
Troy 67 FINAL
TX-Arlington 70
Alabama State 51 FINAL
Texas Southern 67
Jacksonville St 63 FINAL
Tennessee St 50
Wyoming 40 2nd Half 10:15
Nevada 41
Oklahoma St 50 2nd Half 8:11
Iowa State 51
CS-Bakersfield 47 2nd Half 12:38
Seattle 43
La Salle 42 2nd Half 15:08
VA Commonwealth 39
Cal-Irvine 38 2nd Half 10:10
Cal Poly 57
Fla Gulf Coast 46 2nd Half 11:12
Northern Ky 35
Southern Utah 31 2nd Half
Northern Ariz 23
Green Bay 12 1st Half 11:51
Illinois-Chicago 7
Cal State Fullerton 9:00 PM
Long Beach St
CS-Northridge 9:00 PM
Hawaii

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