As we approach free agency the Vikings are once again searching for a reliable kicker. Kai Fortbath’s extra point miscues have left the Vikings searching for a new kicker with limited options in both free agency and the draft. Blair Walsh is on the market but an Eagles fan would be more welcome in the Twin Cities than he.
This past year with Forbath behind the holder, the Vikings coaching staff and fans were underwhelmed with his performance and accuracy. He was successful on only 87 percent of PATs and 84 percent of field goal tries. Rick Speilman and Mike Zimmer were left scratching their heads and will most assuredly look elsewhere for a more permanent fixture at kicker. But will that be in the draft or in free agency?
This Year’s Kicker Draft Class
Four kickers in total will be participating in this year’s combine. Of these, only two have a real chance at being drafted.
Eddie Pineiro, Florida: Pineiro was the nation’s most accurate kicker with a cannon for a leg, making five 50-plus-yard field goals. Only a slight error in mechanics and a slow wind up will prevent him from being drafted in the fourth round or higher.
Daniel Carlson, Auburn: An extra point and touch-back wizard, Carlson also made 13 50-plus-yard field goals. His accuracy did drop this past year (see Outback Bowl versus Wisconsin). But against Alabama he was five for five. He should be a third day draft pick or immediate post-draft signing.
Drew Brown, Nebraska and Mike Badgley, Miami: Both are likely post-draft free agents or competition guys.
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Current Free Agent Kickers:
Caleb Sturgis: Sturgis missed last year with a back injury, but his familiarity with the Vikings new offensive coordinator DeFilippio might be his ticket to Minnesota. At 28-years-old, he is early in his NFL kicking career. Barring further injury, he has a long one in front of him. His field goal percentage from 2013 to 2016 was 84 percent. His PAT percentage over that stretch was 98. That makes him a clear upgrade over the shaky Forbath. Earning less than two million last year, he could be a cheap and effective signing for the Vikings who need more consistency at the position.
Cody Parkey: The 25-year-old ex-Dolphin had PAT and field goal percentages at or above 90. With a contract that could be less than $1 million a year, he could be an easy and inexpensive free agent signing.
Graham Gano: Pro Bowler Gano would be a big loss for the Panthers if the Vikings were to sign him. Fortunately for them, it appears at the moment he is a prime candidate for the franchise tag. With percentages consistently among the league’s elite he will garner a $4 to $5 million a year contract and would be a long-term investment. He would also be the best kicker the Vikings have had since Gary Anderson.
Which way do the Vikings Go?
The Vikings are an indoor team who have to play outside in Green Bay and Chicago once a year. This year they will also be at New England, New York and Philadelphia. As such, it makes sense to pick a kicker with outdoor leg capability. With both viable college prospects playing in warmer weather environments, the Vikings should pass on drafting a kicker. The best path forward for the Vikings is in free agency. If the Panthers do not sign or tag Gano, look for the Vikings to make a push for him. As for Parkey and Sturgis, either would be an improvement and would not break the bank.
My Pick: Gano
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