Well it finally happened. Maybe a few weeks too late or a season too late depending on your take but the Minnesota Vikings finally cut ties with kicker Blair Walsh. Walsh’s eight missed kicks, including an NLF-leading four missed extra points was finally too much for the Vikings to overlook. His missed extra point against the Detroit Lions cost Minnesota a win and his missed extra point at the end of the first half against Washington sucked the momentum out of a great second-quarter comeback by the Vikings.
Walsh almost certainly never mentally recovered from the missed kick against Seattle last year in the playoffs. Minnesota gave him all the time they could to get his head right but with a struggling offense and defense that has been exposed in recent weeks, the margin for error became too slim to continue to trot out an unreliable kicker onto the field each week.
Walsh’s talent is undeniable, that’s why general manager Rick Spielman drafted him out of the University of Georgia and gave him a four-year contract extension at the start of last season. Walsh will likely get a shot to catch on somewhere else and resurrect his career but it wasn’t going to be in Minnesota. The pressure was just too much with fans (and the coach for that matter) ready to jump down his throat after every swing of his right leg.
The Vikings signed kicker Kia Forbath to replace Walsh. Forbath is a career 84.1 percent kicker, not known for having a big leg (only 4-of-7 in his career from 50+ yards). Where he should help the Vikings is converting extra points where he has a career average of 97.6 percent, including going 34 for 35 last season when the kick was pushed back.
Forbath was college teammates with Vikings’ punter Jeff Locke and long snapper Kevin McDermott at UCLA, making the transition hopefully a relatively easy one.
The Vikings also placed left tackle Jake Long on injured reserve with an achilles injury, ending his season. Minnesota was savvy in the way it structured Long’s contract, gaining extra cap flexibility in the event Long suffered a season-ending injury. The extra money allowed them to sign Forbath as well as Rashod Hill off the Jacksonville Jaguars’ practice squad. Hill is from Southern Mississippi and has left tackle experience. The Jaguars expressed interest in keeping Hill but he chose to catch on with Minnesota instead.
Berserker Viking’s Take: The move to jettison Walsh from the team was a long time coming. I’ve previously said I had optimism he might return to form at some point this year but that clearly wasn’t happening. Feel bad for Walsh the man, but Walsh the kicker can go kick rocks for all I care at this point. Forbath is an okay signing, I guess? His numbers don’t wow you and he will be a downgrade in the kickoff game so here is hoping special teams coach Mike Priefer has his unit ready to cover and tackle because Forbath’s kicks won’t be booming out of the end zone.
Minnesota needed another body on the offensive line once Long went down. I think some may of expected Austin Shepherd to get the call up from the practice squad but the Vikings instead poached Hill from Jacksonville. Really don’t have much of take on this one as I don’t know anything about Hill but not sure it can get any worse right now for the Minnesota line. The bigger question is how the Vikings will shuffle things this week. Does Alex Boone kick out to left tackle or do they plug Jeremiah Sirles or T.J. Clemmings there? Does Wille Beavers get a shot? Maybe Zac Kerin gets some run and Joe Berger moves to a guard spot. We will have to just wait and see what Mike Zimmer, Tony Sparano and company come up with.