Vikings Try Out Ex-Jets Kicker After Prized Practice Squad Kicker is Claimed

Taylor Bertolet

Getty Taylor Bertolet was given a try out with the Vikings on Monday and is the only available player that could practice with the team before Sunday's game against the Chicago Bears.

One of the Minnesota Vikings’ most-prized practice squad players who was poached by the Jacksonville Jaguars earlier this season happened to be a kicker.

The Vikings spent the first five weeks of the season, under a new rule, protecting former practice squad kicker Chase McLaughlin from being poached by opposing competition.

The rule allows teams to protect any practice squad player four times in a season, and Minnesota had used all four of their opportunities to prevent another team from signing the former Illinois kicker early in the season. McLaughlin was signed off the Vikings practice squad by Jacksonville Jaguars on Nov. 10.

After going 5-for-5 on place-kicking attempts through two weeks, the Vikings found some poetic justice as McLaughlin missed a field goal and an extra point against his former team, aiding the Vikings’ 27-24 overtime win.

He was cut last Saturday and the New York Jets moved quickly to sign McLaughlin on Monday. McLaughlin had been touted as one of the few options the Vikings had at signing a kicker in free agency to replace Dan Bailey, who’s missed seven of his past 10 kicks after a meltdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.

Now, they’ve opted to try out a former Jets kicker as New York has settled with its newest kicker in McLaughlin.

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Vikings Try Out Kicker Taylor Bertolet

Since 2016, Bertolet has been a journeyman kicker who has yet to find a home base in the NFL. The former Texas A&M prospect spent his 2019 training camp but did not make the cut for either the practice squad or 53-man roster.

Bertolet, moving on from his third team in his career, opted to join the Salt Lake Stallions in the Alliance of American Football (AAF) and 9-for-14 on field-goal attempts last season. He made 66% of his attempts in college, showing an improvement given the small sample size in the AAF.

He was a bubble player with the Carolina Panthers throughout the season, being cut then re-signed four times this season — most recently on Dec. 1.

The Vikings had Bertolet in for a try out on Monday. He’ll likely be a practice squad add if the Vikings decide to promote their current practice squad kicker, Tristan Vizcaino, to the active roster in place of Bailey.

 Vizcaino’s Background

Vizcaino was added to the team after McLaughlin was poached by the Jaguars. He kicked in his senior year for Washington, converting 12 of 19 field goals and 48 of 51 extra points. Vizcaino went undrafted in 2018.

After a year unsigned, Vizcaino kicked for the Cincinnati Bengals in the 2019 preseason and made four of seven field-goal attempts and all three of his extra-point chances.

He’s shown long-range ability, converting a 57-yard field goal in the preseason and a 61-yarder in practice with the Jets.

Given COVID-19 protocols, the Vikings would have to sign a kicker by Tuesday for any chance of eligibility on Sunday, making Vizcaino the most likely remedy to Bailey if Minnesota does opt to make a change at kicker.