When it Comes to Special Teams, The Vikings Have More Questions Than Answers

Before the season began, special teams seemed like a strength for our Vikings. Former concerns about who would be doing the kicking were in the rear view mirror. Dan Bailey, who is still a historically great kicker in terms of his field goal percentages, went 27/29 in 2019, an impressive 93.1%. Britton Colquitt, meanwhile, was a rock-solid veteran at punter who also stabilized the holder position. Toss in seventh-round pick Austin Cutting and it certainly appeared as though Minnesota had some much needed stability.

2020 was a rough year, though. Bailey finished 15/22 for a career worst 68.2 field goal percentage. Colquitt also took a step backward, and Cutting was eventually replaced by veteran Andrew DePaola.

What do the Vikings Currently Have on Special Teams?

Well, Bailey has been cut. We predicted that the team would seek to restructure his deal as they bring in competition in training camp. Minnesota brought in competition and then approached him about a pay cut, but Bailey refused. He has since been cut. Colquitt agreed to a contract restructure; he returns for just under $1.8 million in 2021.

Over the past handful of years, Rick Spielman has made repeated efforts to find solutions on special teams in the draft. Blair Walsh, Daniel Carlson, Jeff Locke, and Austin Cutting all come to mind. We could also include 2020 fifth-round pick K.J. Osborn in that group since he was chosen primarily because of his special teams ability. It’s also worth mentioning that when they chose Mike Hughes, Minnesota said that a good portion of their rationale rested on the potential that he could contribute in the return game. None of this has worked out for the Vikings.

Even still, Minnesota hasn’t done much to address the special teams in free agency. Colquitt’s return means the punting situation ought to be solid, and DePaola is the front runner for the long snapper job. It’s also worth remembering that Marwan Maalouf – last season’s special teams coordinator – has been replaced by Ryan Ficken. Dreams of a Cordarrelle Patterson reunion aren’t entirely dead, but they look unlikely. Perhaps Ficken will be able to get quality returns from some combination of Osborn, Ameer Abdullah, and Chad Beebe.

The draft may end up being Spielman’s solution for kicker. The Athletic‘s Dane Brugler recently released his Beast – a massive, one-stop-shop for draft pick evaluations – and he has three kickers in with a draft grade above UDFA. Perhaps Spielman will use one of his many draft picks to snag Evan McPherson, Jose Borregales, or Riley Patterson. It’s an uninspiring option given Spielman’s track record, but Minnesota does need to find someone who can kick.

Looking Ahead

The Vikings, though on a strict budget, still have money to spend, so it’s not inconceivable that some of that money will go toward special teams. After the offensive line, kicker is perhaps their biggest need. If they actually find themselves in a position to compete in 2021 – as I believe they will – Minnesota will want someone who can come in at the end of the game to seal the victory. Frankly, I don’t know if Mike Zimmer’s blood pressure will be able to handle another inconsistent kicker. For the sake of us weary fans and Zimmer’s health, let’s hope Spielman has some sort of trick up his sleeve.

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