In Our Roster Projection Series, we have covered the defense (d-line, linebackers, corners, and safeties) and the offense (quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, and o-line). We finish off the series with a brief look at the specialists: the kicker, punter, and long-snapper.
These are strange times in Vikings land; there is very little uncertainty on special teams. In fact, our kicker and punter were really good in 2019. Strange times, indeed. All three specialists belong in the Lock category. As a result, we’ll ditch the usual format by briefly discussing the three Locks before turning to some discussion of the return game.
Dan Bailey, Britton Colquitt, and Austin Cutting.
Dan Bailey, Britton Colquitt, and Austin Cutting
Bailey overcame an underwhelming opening season with the Vikings to return to being one of the better kickers in the NFL. According to Pro Football Focus, Bailey was elite with kickoffs, ranking second in the league. He made 27/29 field goals and 40/44 extra points. Overall, a strong season. His 3 year, $10 million contract is well-earned.
Colquitt also had a strong year, averaging 45.2 yards/punt. He ranks as the #2 punter in PFF’s rankings. Moreover, Colquitt ended the uncertainty at holder. Mike Zimmer has admitted that he underestimated how important a holder is for a kicker. Colquitt, a seasoned vet, helped stabilize this surprisingly important job. Like Bailey, Colquitt’s 3 year, $9 million extension is well-earned
The Vikings spent a seventh-round draft pick on Cutting in the 2019 draft, a steep price to pay for a long snapper. Even still, Cutting should be considered a success. The Vikings recognize how important specials teams are, so spending a 7th on a long-snapper makes some sense.
Similar to Cutting, the Vikings spent a relatively high pick on a returner: fifth-round pick K.J. Osborn. Rick Spielman isn’t in the habit of simply throwing away draft picks, so he must be confident that Osborn has a legitimate chance to make the roster. Osborn’s main competition will likely be Chad Beebe and Ameer Abdullah, but special teams coordinator Marwan Maalouf recently mentioned that Justin Jefferson and Mike Hughes may be given opportunities to return.
In his most recent interview, Maalouf explained that the Vikings will focus on being better at returning, especially on punt: “I’d really love to see our punt return phase, especially the return part, kinda come together a little bit more.” Shortly thereafter, Maalouf said that Vikings’ “return phases need to contribute a little bit more to our field position.”
Otherwise, things seem promising on special teams. Kris Boyd, Eric Wilson, Ben Gedeon, C.J. Ham, Cameron Smith, and a myriad of rookies ensure that there will be strong options for the coverage units. Maalouf mentioned Cameron Dantzler, Harrison Hand, and Josh Metellus as rookies who have stood out in meetings so far.
Pre-Training Camp Roster Projection: Bailey, Colquitt, and Cutting
Pre-Training Camp Starter Projection: Bailey, Colquitt, and Cutting