The Vikings have pinpointed a new kicker.
Eight-year veteran Dan Bailey is expected to sign with the Vikings pending a physical, according to coach Mike Zimmer, after the team waived rookie kicker Daniel Carlson on Monday. Carlson, a fifth-round pick, missed three field goals during the Vikings’ 29-29 tie in Green Bay on Sunday, including a game-winning 35-yard attempt during the closing seconds of overtime.
The team’s decision to waive Carlson after two regular season games was “pretty easy,” according to Zimmer.
“Did you see the game?” Zimmer asked rhetorically.
The Vikings cut the cord with Carlson after he made just 5 of 10 field goal attempts, including his uneven preseason. The 23-year-old kicker made his only field goal from 48 yards away during the Week 1 win against San Francisco. He then missed all three attempts against the Packers from 35, 48 and 49 yards — two in overtime.
The Vikings’ kicker saga continues. Pending Bailey’s physical, he’ll be the Vikings’ fourth kicker in Zimmer’s fifth season. Blair Walsh signaled his exit with the infamous 27-yard, game-winning miss in the NFC Wild-Card playoff against the Seahawks in January 2016. He was released midway through the following season.
General Manager Rick Spielman then traded up in this spring’s draft to spend the franchise’s most valuable pick on Carlson, taken 167th overall out of Auburn, to replace veteran Kai Forbath.
The Vikings released Carlson less than five months later.
“Yeah, well, that’s life,” Zimmer said. “It’s hard to figure out. You think you got a guy for a while and then he goes out and misses three in a big game. But, you know, things happen I guess.”
Bailey, 30, was released by the Cowboys on Sept. 1 in a move that saved Dallas a few million dollars by keeping a Canadian Football League journeyman, Brett Maher, over him. Bailey is currently the second most accurate field goal kicker in NFL history having converted 88.1 percent of his career attempts, behind only Baltimore’s Justin Tucker (90.3 percent).
Zimmer was asked Monday if he felt fortunate a veteran like Bailey was still available. Bailey reportedly turned down offers from four other NFL teams after his release from Dallas.
“Well we haven’t signed him yet,” Zimmer said. “So, I don’t know if I feel fortunate yet or not.”
Bailey is coming off a down ending to his 2017 season, during which he missed four games due to a groin injury. He returned and made 8 of 13 field goal attempts in the Cowboys’ final five games. Bailey also missed the first two extra points of his seven-year career after returning from the injury.
He has kicked in three playoff games, making 4 of 6 field goal attempts and all eight extra points. One of his misses, in a 2014 NFC Divisional Round loss to the Packers, was blocked.
A new kicker spearheads the Vikings’ focus this week on special teams after an overall poor effort against the Packers. The Vikings had a punt blocked in the end zone for a touchdown, whiffed on some fair catches on punt return and Carlson, aside from his misses, also botched a kickoff that set up the Packers at their own 31-yard line in the fourth quarter.
Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer took a level-headed approach to Monday’s meeting, according to Stephen Weatherly, the defensive end who contributes to many special teams phases.
“We had some good things on return phases, we didn’t do so well on kicking phases,” Weatherly said. “[Priefer said] let’s talk about what we did well, what we need to work on and let’s apply it to next week. That’s exactly how we went through it.”
Receiver Stacy Coley also nearly fumbled a fourth-quarter kick return when he, without kneeling for a touchback, fielded the kickoff and flipped the ball to an official. After the official avoided the ball, Coley recovered before it turned into a Packers touchdown.
“We’re going to have to clean it up,” Zimmer said. “I’ve talked to the team about some things that I’ll keep within ourselves, but we’ve got to do a better job there.”