Looking for an explanation for why the Vikings released veteran kicker Ryan Longwell earlier this week? General Manager Rick Spielman elaborated on that decision Wednesday, explaining, in a nutshell, that it was the latest transaction in the offseason youth movement the front office promised dating to January when Spielman was promoted.
Yes, Longwell had kicked in the Vikings' past 96 regular-season games plus three playoff contests in 2008 and '09. And yeah, he's the third-leading scorer in franchise history. But now it's time to turn the page and give rookie Blair Walsh a shot.
"Our emphasis has always been on trying to get our team better, try to get it younger and that's the direction we kind of went," Spielman said. "It just fits in with everything else we were honed in on this offseason."
Spielman praised Longwell for his work on the field and in the community during his six years here. But the GM also noted that the Vikings were hoping to be a little stronger on kickoffs going forward, something Walsh's leg strength should help. Even with the kickoff line moved up to the 35-yard line last year, Longwell forced only 19 touchbacks on 77 kicks in 2011.
Plus, Spielman said, releasing Longwell now rather than creating a kicking competition in training camp, would give the 37-year-old a chance to seek other work.The Blair Walsh Project
Spielman isn't worried about the shaky 60-percent accuracy (21-for-35) Walsh had on field-goal attempts last season at Georgia, believing the 22-year-old kicker only needs to address a few technical details. Instead, Spielman focused on the 40 of 45 Walsh made in 2009 and 2010.
"You look at his history, he was a 90-percent kicker through most of his career," Spielman said. "And the kickoffs are exceptional from all the work we've done on him. He did have a down year his senior year, but we felt very confident that we could bring him along."Still searching
Free agent linebacker Rocky McIntosh worked out for the Vikings on Tuesday. McIntosh, 29, spent his first six season with the Redskins. His best year came in 2010 when he recorded 110 tackles. Spielman said he would stay in contact with McIntosh but wouldn't say much more in regards to the team's interest.
At present, the Vikings figure to have a starting linebacking trio of Chad Greenway, Jasper Brinkley and Erin Henderson with additional depth coming from offseason additions Marvin Mitchell, Solomon Elimimian and Audie Cole.