So here is an interesting intra-division scenario emerging in the final hours before the NFL free-agent market opens. The Minnesota Vikings have to this point failed to re-sign right tackle Phil Loadholt, who now appears to have generated significant interest from the Chicago Bears, according to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune.
The development tells us two things. First, the Vikings are nearing a deadline for keeping intact the offensive line they believed they had established for the long term last season. Second, the Bears are serious about addressing their offensive line -- so much so that they would spend relatively premium money, perhaps more than $5 million annually -- to replace the player they drafted in the first round just two years ago.
Yes, if the Bears land Loadholt, the best-case scenario for Gabe Carimi would seem to be competing for a starting guard position. There have also been multiple reports, including this one from Alex Marvez of Fox Sports, that connect the Bears and free-agent left tackle Jake Long. Loadholt figures to be a more affordable option if the Bears want a starting tackle in free agency.
The Vikings already had more than enough salary-cap space to sign Loadholt, but it's worth noting they created more Tuesday morning by restructuring the contract of tight end John Carlson. (Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com has details.)
Again, these are the types of exciting/agonizing moments that the free-agent deadline brings. I really don't think the Vikings want to lose Loadholt, given their lack of an internal replacement, and they certainly don't want to see him strengthen one of their division rivals. I wouldn't be surprised if we have a resolution on this one by the end of Tuesday.