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Decision looms for Vikings on tackle Matt Kalil

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.

Highlights as Favre, Dungy share the stage as part of the Hall of Fame's Class of 2016

Brett Favre and Tony Dungy got to share the stage tonight as reporters interviewed the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2016 in San Francisco, site of Sunday’s Super Bowl 50. After a nod to all the great players who helped get him selected as a coach of the Buccaneers and Colts, Dungy then made a crack about Favre also having an impact on the timing of Dungy’s selection.

“I might have gotten here two or three years earlier if not for him,” said Dungy, who faced Favre twice a year as Vikings defensive coordinator before getting the Bucs head coaching job.

Here are some other highlights from Dungy, the former Gophers quarterback who rose to NFL defensive mastermind and the only black head coach to win a Super Bowl; and Favre, who led the Vikings to the NFC title game during the first of his two seasons [2009-10] with the Vikings:

Highlights from Favre ….

—On whether he knew he was a slam-dunk pick and how it felt when it became official: “It’s an incredible feeling. It really is. I’m well aware of my career and what I’ve done. I’ve accepted it for what it is. But, like, Roger Staubach comes up on stage  and I still get goosebumps. That was my childhood hero. The Dallas Cowboys were my team. Last night, Ed “Too Tall” Jones comes up and says, ‘Hello.’ It’s like, ‘Is he talking to me? That’s how I feel. I guess what I’m saying is I’m extremely thankful that I’m part of the group, but I don’t necessarily feel like I’m part of the group.”

On picking the favorite memory of a 20-year career: “I don’t know if I could pick one. I look at the whole thing as a memory. It’s impossible to pick one. As soon as I pick one, I think of many others.”

On his year in Minnesota and what it felt like putting on the purple for the very first time: “It was [surreal]. I have to admit. The organization, as well as the fans, embraced me and made me feel welcome. Not unlike going back to Green Bay and how I felt there as well [this past fall]. I know I created a little confusion there by leaving and going to the enemy. But for me, it was refreshing. It was awkward, but it was refreshing to see it from both sides. I hated to go and play in the Metrodome [as a Packer]. It was awful. We had little or no success there. It was kind of nice to see it from the other side. And then going to Lambeau Field [as a Viking], you can imagine. Never coming out of the visitor’s tunnel, knowing what that was like. And, quite frankly, not wanting to know what that’s like. My perspective is full circle now. There is a tremendous amount of respect for both sides.

“Yeah, it was awkward. I have people all the time tell me, ‘You really divided my house.’ I take pride in that, sort of. I know people say that in kind of a fun-loving way. But the Packers-Vikings rivalry is sometimes not a laughing matter.”

—On having a goal in 1993, his third season, of being the greatest quarterback of all time: “In 1993, I thought a lot of things. I thought I had a lot of answers. I’m just extremely thankful that somewhere along the way that it didn’t end and that I was able to play 20 years. There were many times when I could have and should have failed. I knew I had ability. I think for me, even dating back to college or Atlanta, all I really needed, in my mind, was a chance. I didn’t get that in Atlanta. I was last on the totem poll at Southern Miss. I just needed a chance. That’s what I kept saying. I was one of those, no surprise to anyone, that was like, I’ll learn the X’s and O’s later. I just needed a chance to get in there and I’d make something happen.

“I was way behind from a passing standpoint to a lot of guys. I played a lot of games in college. But not really in a passing offense. I had to rely on just making something happen. Learn on the fly. My first 10 years was really athletic ability overcoming a lack of knowledge of football. I just felt like if I got a chance, I could make something happen. And I would get the other part of it down as I go. And I was a little naive, too. I didn’t realize the odds [of being the best] were.”

Highlights from Dungy …

—On his journey, 20 years after finally being hired as a head coach: “It’s hard to believe, 20 years ago. We lost our first five games and it didn’t look like we were heading in this direction at all. Just some wonderful people and great players. … Just very, very emotional for me. I came into the league in 1977. I think at that time there were seven or eight African American assistant coaches in the entire league. So it wasn’t a situation where you had a lot of role models. But I had a lot of people who believed in me and I’m very, very proud to represent those men.”

—On returning to Minneapolis, years after he was quarterback for the University of Minnesota, to work as defensive coordinator for the Vikings: “Going to Minnesota was special for me. Denny Green called me in 1992. He had just got the job there. Denny was my special teams coach in San Francisco [in 1977]. He knew me and he wanted me to run his defense. We had some great players. Chris Doleman, who is in the Hall of Fame. John Randle [also in the Hall of Fame]. Just some perfect guys for what I wanted to do. But more than anything, Denny said, ‘I’m going to show you how to be a head coach and what goes into it.’ And he mentored me and taught me and showed me the ropes. I got to cut my teeth and get my reputation, but more than anything, he showed me things. I have to say this. When I got the job in Tampa, we’re in the same division. We’re competing against him. I would call Denny and say, ‘Hey, that Monday night schedule, how did we do that? What did we do after a bye.’ And he would tell me because he wanted me to be successful.”

—On coaching Marvin Harrison, who joined Dungy in this year’s class and Peyton Manning, who will be playing in Super Bowl 50 on Sunday: “It’s not hard to see why I’m here. Warren Sapp went in a couple years ago. Derrick Brooks. Peyton is going to go it. Marvin is going in. Just some great men that I was able to be around. There’s a reason you go in as a coach. It’s those great players.”

Super Bowl 50
Final, 2/7
1 2 3 4 F
Carolina 0 7 0 3 10
Denver 10 3 3 8 24

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