When the Minnesota Vikings released kicker Dan Bailey on Tuesday, no one was surprised. Bailey had a miserable final month to the 2020 season. He missed ten total kicks in December, including a miserable game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers where he missed all three of his field goal attempts and his lone extra-point attempt. But Bailey’s release is just the latest transaction related to the Vikings kicking carousel. After years of having a short leash and quick trigger regarding the kicking position, the Vikings need to slow down this off-season when they decide who their next kicker will be.
Dan Bailey’s Release Proves Minnesota Vikings Must Use Different Approach To Find Next Kicker
The Mishandling of Kai Forbath
Since rightfully cutting Blair Walsh in the middle of the 2016 season, the Vikings have struggled with stability at kicker. The team signed Kai Forbath for the remainder of the season, and he actually performed pretty well. Despite missing three of his 14 extra-point attempts, he made all 15 field goal attempts. When he came back in 2017, he made 32-of-38 field goals and 34-of-39 extra-point attempts. These weren’t spectacular numbers, but Forbath wasn’t a rollercoaster of emotions and didn’t allow one bad kick to become three bad kicks. Throw in the fact that he made two big kicks in the fourth quarter of their victory in the Minneapolis Miracle, and it appeared as though the Vikings had a solid kicker heading into 2018.
However, when the NFL draft rolled around, the Vikings traded two sixth-round picks to move into the fifth round and draft rookie Daniel Carlson from Auburn. Carlson had a big leg, and he was involved in a training camp battle with Forbath that was Carlson’s job from the first day of camp. The Vikings ended up cutting Forbath so Carlson was their kicker going into the 2018 regular season.
The Mishandling of Daniel Carlson Leads To Dan Bailey
Any time a team drafts a kicker or punter, there is increased pressure. Most kickers and punters are undrafted, so to use draft capital to select one almost feels like the team is drafting a franchise quarterback. That pick is supposed to be a home run, and teams are expected to have those players for a decade.
So when the Vikings traded up for Carlson in 2018, it was expected that the big-leg kicker from Auburn would be the next great NFL kicker. He beat out Forbath despite a shaky preseason, and in the first game of his career, made all three of his extra-point attempts and hit his lone field goal.
Things changed a week later at Lambeau Field. Carlson missed three kicks, including a 49-yarder and 35-yarder in overtime that would have given Minnesota the win. Instead, the Vikings tied the Green Bay Packers 29-29 after a furious comeback, and the season never took off the way the team had hoped. Believing that they had a Super Bowl-caliber team and being afraid that Carlson could derail the season, the Vikings cut Carlson that week.
Carlson then signed with the then Oakland Raiders and became the kicker that Minnesota thought they were getting. He missed one field goal the rest of the season, and in 2020 he hit 33-of-35 field goal attempts. The Vikings quick trigger with kickers had backfired on them.
The Vikings replaced Carlson with Dan Bailey, who then made only 21-of-28 field goals to finish the season. Bailey did, however, hit on all but one of his 31 extra-point attempts. At the time of his signing, Bailey was one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history, so it was believed he would even out with an off-season of work heading into 2019.
In training camp, however, the Vikings believed, once again, that they could improve at kicker. They traded a fifth-round pick for kicker/punter Kaare Vedvik. Like Carlson the year before, it was expected that it was Vedvik’s job to lose after the Vikings used a draft pick to acquire him. But Vedvik only made one-of-four field goals in the preseason. Meanwhile, Bailey hit all three of his attempts. By the end of camp, the Vikings had cut Vedvik only weeks after trading for him. For the second consecutive season, Minnesota wasted draft capital on a kicker that they had no patience to work with. Fortunately for the Vikings, Vedvik didn’t go on to have great success after being cut.
A Conservative Approach Is Needed
Minnesota needs to take a conservative approach to find a new kicker. For far too long they have made aggressive moves on kickers only to give those kickers a short leash and part ways too quickly. There will be several undrafted kickers this year who can surely do just as well as Dan Bailey did in 2020 and for a fraction of the price. There will also be the usual journeyman kickers who bounce around teams. The Vikings need to invest in one of these options as opposed to looking big in the draft.