With a roster built for the Super Bowl, the Minnesota Vikings were in no position to practice patience with a struggling kicker.
Rather than hoping Daniel Carlson could refocus after missing all three of his field goal attempts in the tie game at Green Bay, the Vikings waived the rookie on Monday and punted on the fifth-round draft pick they used on him five months ago.
Two of Carlson’s misses came in overtime on Sunday, forcing the Vikings to settle for a 29-29 draw with the rival Packers. When asked by a reporter how the decision was reached, coach Mike Zimmer said, “Did you see the game?”
Carlson missed from 48 yards in the second quarter and 49 yards in the extra period, before his 35-yard try on the game’s final play also went wide right.
“Yeah, it was pretty easy,” Zimmer said.
The Vikings didn’t immediately add a replacement for Carlson, but Zimmer confirmed that free agent Dan Bailey was making his way to Minnesota for a physical exam. That made it all but certain the Vikings will sign Bailey, the second-most accurate field goal kicker in NFL history. The 30-year-old was released by the Dallas Cowboys right before the regular season began in a cost-saving move following his injury-influenced regression in 2017.
Bailey hurt his groin in the sixth game of the season at San Francisco and missed the next four weeks. Upon his return, he missed five of 13 field goal attempts and also had the first two failed extra points of his seven-year NFL career. With a field goal rate greater than 88 percent, Bailey is behind only Baltimore’s Justin Tucker for the best percentage in league history.
Carlson was awarded the job when the Vikings let Kai Forbath go on Aug. 20, and Carlson pulled two field-goal tries wide left in an exhibition game four days later. In the season opener against the 49ers on Sept. 9, Carlson converted his only field goal attempt, from 48 yards, plus three extra points.
Then came the debacle at Lambeau Field , after which Carlson acknowledged he’d lost some faith in his ability upon lining up for his last try.
“It’s disappointing for me personally. The team fought so hard. We expect to win that, and I expect to make those kicks to win the game for the team,” Carlson said. “That last one was probably more just confidence after missing twice early. That is frustrating. That shorter one I should never miss like that.”
Since Zimmer took the job in 2014, the Vikings have had plenty of these problems. Blair Walsh never fully recovered from his 27-yard miss in the subzero cold of the playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks after the 2015 season.
Walsh was let go midway through the 2016 season in favor of Forbath, whose biggest trouble was extra points. Forbath performed relatively well in 2017 as the Vikings advanced to the NFC championship game, but general manager Rick Spielman sought an upgrade with Carlson, who left Auburn as the all-time leading scorer in Southeastern Conference history.
Carlson sent 9 of 10 kickoffs for touchbacks, and the other one was a squib returned for 8 yards to Green Bay’s 31. But all the leg strength in the world won’t make up for any setbacks on the mental side of this pressure-packed job.
“That’s life. I don’t know. It’s hard to figure out,” Zimmer said. “You think you’ve got a guy for a while, and then he goes out and misses three in a big game. But things happen I guess.”
The Vikings traded two sixth-round picks to the New York Jets for the opportunity to move up in the fifth round for Carlson.
“That’s water off a duck’s back,” Zimmer said. “We’ll get some more sixth-rounders next year. I’m not worried about that.”
The Vikings signed wide receiver Aldrick Robinson, a seventh-year veteran who was most recently with San Francisco and played with quarterback Kirk Cousins in Washington in 2012 and 2013.
“He really liked him. He’s a fast guy,” Zimmer said.
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