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Updated: March 12th, 2013 2:50pm
Source: Vikings agree to multiyear contract with tackle Phil Loadholt

Source: Vikings agree to multiyear contract with tackle Phil Loadholt

by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com
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The Minnesota Vikings always made Phil Loadholt the top priority among their free agents. They got a deal done just in time.

The Vikings agreed to a multiyear contract extension with the big right tackle less than an hour before free agency opened on Tuesday afternoon, an NFL source said.

Terms were not immediately available, but another source said the Vikings finally increased their offer to more than $5 million a year after the Chicago Bears made a strong push for his services.

Loadholt, 27, has missed only one start in four NFL seasons since the Vikings drafted him in the second round (54th overall) out of Oklahoma in 2009. The website ProFootballFocus.com rated him as the NFL's eighth-best right tackle last season.

But sources said the Bears emerged as a contender for his services as of Tuesday morning because the Vikings had refused to offer Loadholt more than $5 million a season.

That figure that would make him the team's highest-paid offensive lineman, surpassing standout center John Sullivan (five years, $25.1 million).

Only a handful of right tackles have deals averaging more than $5 million a season. The Vikings have discussed a contract extension since at least October but didn't get into the same ballpark during the season.

The Bears also reportedly are interested in free-agent left tackles Jake Long and Jermon Bushrod as they try to rebuild their perennially undermanned offensive line under new coach Marc Trestman. Taking away a player from a division rival could have given them double the bang for their buck.

The Vikings were $13.3 million under the salary cap as of Tuesday morning, pending the trade of receiver Percy Harvin to Seattle being finalized.

They cleared some more space by agreeing to a restructured deal with tight end John Carlson and releasing veteran cornerback Antoine Winfield.

The only other one of their 10 unrestricted free agents who had agreed to terms as of 2:30 p.m. was receiver Jerome Simpson, who reportedly accepted a one-year deal.

The other nine Vikings who can become free agents at 3 p.m. are: fullback Jerome Felton; safety Jamarca Sanford; receiver Devin Aromashodu; linebackers Jasper Brinkley, Erin Henderson and Marvin Mitchell; and offensive linemen Joe Berger and Geoff Schwartz.

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Tom | @TomPelissero | Tom Pelissero
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