The Minnesota Vikings have been plagued with kicking woes throughout the franchise’s lifespan, but it was a relatively quiet curse until the 2015 postseason.
Former 2012 sixth-round pick Blair Walsh had been a solid pick by the Vikings, making the Pro Bowl and first-team All-Pro his rookie season. But after hooking a 27-yard field-goal attempt wide left as time expired in a 10-9 loss to the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Wild Card round, Walsh was released by Minnesota and ironically joined the Seahawks that season.
He was a training camp add with the Atlanta Falcons in 2019 but otherwise has been out of the league since the end of the 2017 season.
Walsh will remain behind incumbent kicker Wil Lutz, who may be under fire after New Orleans has tried out kickers over the past two weeks. Lutz missed a field goal in the Saints’ 21-9 win over the Chicago Bears in the first round of the playoffs on Sunday and missed three consecutive field goals across a pair of games to begin December.
It’s Lutz’s job to lose, but if the struggles continue and don’t break New Orleans’ Super Bowl chances, Walsh could make an appearance either in the NFC Championship or the Super Bowl.
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Vikings Spin Kicker Carousel After Walsh’s Release
When Walsh was released midway through the season in 2016, Minnesota went searching for its contingency plan at kicker. Kai Forbath was the solution and served the Vikings well, converting 100% of his field-goal attempts — a feat that’s happened only 10 times in league history.
Forbath made 21 field goals straight through the 2017 season, but Rick Spielman opted for a younger kicker and drafted Daniel Carlson in the fifth round in 2018. Forbath made 47 of his 53 field-goal attempts with the Vikings as the most accurate kicker (88.7%) in franchise history. He did struggle with extra points, converting just 45 of 53 attempts (84.9%).
Carlson lasted just two games into the regular season after preseason struggles put him on hot coals. After missing three field goals in a 29-29 tie to the Green Bay Packers, Carlson was cut and replaced by Dan Bailey. Carlson enjoyed the best season of his career this season with the Las Vegas Raiders, converting 33 of 35 of his kicks (94.3%).
Bailey had performed well throughout his tenure with the Vikings, making 25 straight field goals from Week 8 of 2019 to Week 3 this season, but after missing seven field goals in two weeks, including four that proved costly in a 12-point loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Will the Vikings Spin Again?
Consistent kicking is a luxury in the NFL as evidence by the teams that have stood by their franchise kickers. Many franchises have stood by their kickers over the years when they’ve proven reliable.
Bailey has been that throughout his career. He was the sixth-most accurate kicker of all-time entering the 2020 season but after a career-low this season, time will tell if it will be career-defining.
The Vikings are unlikely to cut Bailey in the offseason as the team will need to get creative to just get under the salary cap. Eating another $2.1 million in dead cap by cutting Bailey would make it difficult to field another kicker who’s had a proven track record.
Bailey will likely retain his job but he will be under a microscope.
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Trevor Squire is a Heavy contributor covering the Minnesota Vikings and journalism graduate from the University of Minnesota — Twin Cities. Connect with him on Twitter @trevordsquire and join our Vikings community at Heavy on Vikings on Facebook.