In case you didn’t get a newspaper tossed at your doorstep this morning, we published my second annual early projection of which Vikings players will be back for spring workouts and training camp and which Vikings will be allowed to leave in free agency, retire or be cut for cap purposes.
Most of my individual projections were easy calls. But there were three notable veterans I had trouble deciding whether to leave in or out.
Matt Kalil was one of them. The left tackle was never able to replicate the steady play that earned him a Pro Bowl nod as a rookie and he was placed on injured reserve with a hip injury after Week 2, forcing the Vikings to trot out guys like T.J. Clemmings and Jake Long at that critical position.
The Vikings should strive to find a better long-term answer than Kalil, whose lapses in pass protection are well documented. But they can’t go into the season without at least one proven option at tackle, where Clemmings and Jeremiah Sirles were forced to start for most of 2016.
It would make sense for the Vikings to bring back Kalil on an affordable short-term prove-it deal, one that includes performance incentives, while they develop the young linemen they will presumably take in the draft.
And unless another team is willing to give a sizable contract to Kalil, there is no better place for him to bounce back than here, where he knows the offensive system, blocking schemes, coaching staff and fellow linemen.
That’s why I think there is a decent chance Kalil could be back in 2017.
Another veteran I’m not sure about is cornerback Terence Newman, who will be 39 when next season kicks off. Newman, who was again solid in coverage in 2016, declined to chat about his future after the season.
My guess — and it’s just that — is that it will be Vikings or retirement for Newman, whose one-year contract is set to expire, assuming coach Mike Zimmer wants him back after the “miscommunication” in Green Bay.
While it is time for young cornerback Trae Waynes, who played more and more as the season went on, to be an every-down starter opposite of Pro Bowler Xavier Rhodes, Newman would still provide vital depth for the Vikings, who figure to lose Captain Munnerlyn in free agency.
And then there is veteran defensive end Brian Robison, who conceded on Monday that it appears time for Danielle Hunter to become a starter.
It seems unlikely Robison, who is set to make $5.6 million in salary and bonuses in 2017, will be back at that number. But I’m guessing the Vikings would like to have him back as a part-time pass rusher at a lesser price.
It sounds like Robison would at least consider taking a pay cut if the team approached him about it. But the 33-year-old, who had 7.5 sacks in 2016, also feels he still has more left in the tank. So it would not be surprising to see him in another uniform next season if the Vikings lowballed him.