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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Houston 2 FINAL
St. Louis 5
Washington 9 FINAL
Atlanta 8
Miami 5 FINAL
Boston 3
Minnesota 1 FINAL
Tampa Bay 2
NY Yankees 4 FINAL
Philadelphia 1
Baltimore 4 FINAL
Toronto 5
Detroit - LP: J. Mantiply 4 FINAL
NY Mets - WP: C. Torres 5
Cincinnati 5 FINAL
Chicago Cubs 2
Los Angeles 10 FINAL
Milwaukee 1
San Francisco 12 FINAL
Texas 3
Chicago WSox 0 FINAL
San Diego 5
Kansas City 11 FINAL
Cleveland 9
Seattle 4 FINAL
Los Angeles 7
Colorado 0 FINAL
LA Angels 3
Oakland 7 FINAL
Arizona 2
Pittsburgh 3 Top 6th Inning
NY Yankees 0
Chicago 67 4th Qtr 11:41
Indiana 66
Sacramento 86 4th Qtr 12:00
Orlando 92
Utah 64 3rd Qtr 0:12
Philadelphia 55
Miami 73 4th Qtr
Washington 88
Toronto 73 4th Qtr 9:33
Charlotte 80
Cleveland 43 3rd Qtr
Atlanta 53
Boston 46 2nd Qtr 3:45
New Orleans 41
Detroit 36 2nd Qtr 5:43
Houston 41
LA Lakers 31 2nd Qtr 4:15
Memphis 34
Phoenix 27 2nd Qtr 8:03
Brooklyn 28
Denver 13 1st Qtr 6:39
San Antonio 19
Dallas 9:30 PM
Golden State
Columbus 3 3rd Prd
New Jersey 1
Minnesota 1 3rd Prd
Carolina 1
Buffalo 2 2nd Prd 10:39
Ottawa 1
Calgary 2 2nd Prd 8:16
Detroit 2
Edmonton 0 1st Prd 15:06
Chicago 0
Pittsburgh 9:00 PM
Anaheim
Longwood 68 FINAL
Char Southern 60
Ark-Pine Bluff 94 FINAL
Miss Valley St 75
Southern Ill 45 FINAL
Wichita State 56
Winthrop 67 FINAL
Radford 66
Evansville 67 FINAL
Illinois State 71
Towson 69 FINAL
Elon 74
Gardner-Webb 72 FINAL
High Point 71
Samford 76 FINAL
UNC Greensboro 81
Northern Ill 43 2nd Half 7:32
Ball State 38
Bowling Green 59 2nd Half 7:21
Buffalo 55
Brown 65 2nd Half 3:06
Dartmouth 61
Toledo 51 2nd Half 4:55
Eastern Mich 69
Akron 62 2nd Half 4:59
Kent State 67
Ill-Chicago 62 2nd Half 1:46
Oakland 59
Miami-Ohio 65 FINAL
Ohio 95
Columbia 32 2nd Half 3:53
Penn 39
Cornell 51 2nd Half 1:35
Princeton 59
Central Mich 47 2nd Half 6:02
Western Mich 58
Bradley 41 2nd Half 4:02
Northern Iowa 70
Morehead State 37 2nd Half 18:21
Murray State 43
Yale 22 1st Half 0:41
Harvard 17
Furman 8 1st Half 13:48
Citadel 8
Coll of Charleston 0 1st Half 18:10
Drexel 4
UNC-Asheville 7:55 PM
Coastal Carolina
Texas Tech 8:00 PM
Baylor
Pacific 8:00 PM
San Francisco
Detroit 8:30 PM
Cleveland State
Belmont 8:30 PM
Eastern Ky
Loyola-Chicago 8:35 PM
Indiana State
Loyola Marymount 10:30 PM
Santa Clara
Chicago 9:00 PM
Los Angeles
Saint Louis 63 FINAL
(21) George Washington 77
Wake Forest 68 FINAL
(16) Duke 77
Furman 55 FINAL
(17) Chattanooga 68
Monmouth 61 FINAL
Quinnipiac 82
Michigan State 60 FINAL
(4) Maryland 70
Belmont 65 FINAL
UT Martin 71
Arkansas 36 FINAL
(3) South Carolina 58
Mercer 56 FINAL
East Tenn St 66
Richmond 45 FINAL
Fordham 46
Miami-Florida 61 FINAL
(2) Notre Dame 77
Siena 61 FINAL
Iona 71
Washington St 48 FINAL
(9) Arizona State 67
Ark-Pine Bluff 63 FINAL
Miss Valley St 51
(23) Rutgers 57 FINAL
(24) Northwestern 62
Tennessee St 71 FINAL
SIU-Edwardsville 59
Loyola Marymount 50 FINAL
Gonzaga 70
(18) Texas A&M 65 FINAL
LSU 71
Cincinnati 76 FINAL
UCF 66
Saint Josephs 61 FINAL
Dayton 80
UCLA 62 FINAL
(19) Stanford 67
Santa Clara 42 FINAL
San Diego 51
Virginia Tech 43 FINAL
(7) Florida State 82
SMU 59 FINAL
Memphis 71
Lehigh 75 FINAL
Holy Cross 62
North Florida 35 FINAL
(20) Fla Gulf Coast 74
Lipscomb 69 FINAL
Stetson 92
Saint Peters 57 FINAL
Marist 62
Navy 60 FINAL
Bucknell 49
Lafayette 56 FINAL
American Univ 79
(13) Princeton 70 FINAL
Cornell 37
Harvard 68 FINAL
Yale 63
Rhode Island 51 2nd Half 0:40
Duquesne 59
Kennesaw St 47 2nd Half 2:53
Jacksonville 54
USC Upstate 36 2nd Half 4:00
Northern Ky 52
Nebraska 52 2nd Half 3:36
(14) Iowa 64
Colgate 38 2nd Half 0:20
Army 36
Georgia 36 2nd Half 1:50
(5) Tennessee 70
Dartmouth 71 2nd Half
Brown 53
Penn 50 2nd Half 0:04
Columbia 36
Kansas 49 2nd Half 2:12
Kansas State 52
(15) North Carolina 16 1st Half 7:09
(10) Louisville 24
San Jose St 53 2nd Half
UNLV 49
Houston 0 1st Half 16:41
Tulane 6
Utah State 8:00 PM
Colorado State
Colorado 8:00 PM
(8) Oregon State
New Mexico 8:00 PM
Wyoming
Minnesota 8:25 PM
Ohio State
(12) Kentucky 8:25 PM
(11) Miss State
San Diego State 8:30 PM
Nevada
Niagara 8:30 PM
Fairfield
Texas Tech 8:30 PM
West Virginia
Boise State 9:00 PM
Fresno State
Washington 10:30 PM
California
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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay NoonX19-13 ot
Nov 2 - vs. Washington NoonX29-26
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago NoonX21-13
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay NoonX24-21
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina NoonX31-13
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets NoonX30-24 ot
Dec 14 - at Detroit 3:25 pmX16-14
Dec 21 - at Miami NoonX37-35
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago NoonX13-9

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