Matt Kalil knows the score when it comes to his contract.
The Minnesota Vikings picked up the fifth-year option on his rookie contract, putting him in play for just over $11 million in 2016. After that, all bets are off.
“I don’t think that’s the right mindset to worry about that because that doesn’t matter if you don’t play well,” Kalil said about a potential contract extension. “I think if I just play well and keep working on little things and improving every day, I’d like to end my career as a Viking.”
So far, there’s been no talk from the Vikings about signing the left tackle to an extension. Patience seems to be the right tactic to take, given Kalil’s up-and-down history during his first four years with the team, registering a Pro Bowl appearance as an injury replacement his rookie season and then having injuries and inconsistent techniques boil into frustration at times.
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He realizes he has more to prove before the payout follows. The most highly compensated left tackles in the NFL are averaging $13 million or more annually, with 10 of them averaging $10 million or more per season.
“I’ve got a lot to prove this year and I think with (Alex) Boone and everything with how things are going with our offense and how well we’re playing, things will all work out,” Kalil said.
So far, Kalil’s technique seems to be trending in the right direction. He’s being pushed by one of the best pass-rushing defensive ends in the NFL with Everson Griffen but appears to be winning his share of the battles.
“It’s good to get a look like that because speed kills,” Kalil said. “If you can stop the speed rush and consistently stop it, that’s 75 percent of the game. That’s the hardest thing to stop and you get all these speed rushers around the edge.”
Early in training camp, head coach Mike Zimmer said it is the best he’s seen the offensive line perform since he arrived in 2014. The pieces of the unit aren’t set yet, but Kalil has been entrenched as the starter on the left side.
“It’s a good room right now. We all kind of blend together really as an offensive line unit. That goes for all the guys in the room,” Kalil said of the offensive line. “I think it’s a good atmosphere and I think that has a lot to do with it, too. Good room. We’re all working hard. Obviously this camp compared to other ones, it’s no mess around period in our (individual drills). We get put to work, so I think it’s helping our game a lot.”
The “no mess around period” is a reference to new offensive line coach Tony Sparano, who, by all accounts, is bringing a new attitude to the position. Sparano described his approach this spring as holding players accountable, and Kalil echoed that sentiment.
“It’s just constantly holding everyone accountable and working hard as a unit. Like I said, there’s not one second (during individual drills) where we’re not moving or doing something. We’re not standing around,” he said. “I think that’s going to help me a lot. Definitely going to get me in shape and working hard.”