Dan Bailey’s first contract with the Vikings was worth nearly $2 million when he signed with the team before Week 3 of the 2018 season, after the team turned to the veteran to shore up its kicking situation following Daniel Carlson’s three misses against Green Bay the week before.
Bailey hit only 75% of his field-goal attempts last season and got just over $1 million when he signed with the Vikings this spring. He was named NFC special teams player of the week after hitting four field goals against the Chargers on Sunday and has a chance to make an additional $1 million by triggering an incentive in his contract if he makes more than 90% of his attempts during the regular season (he is currently at 91.7%).
The fact the Vikings’ kicking operation has largely worked without issue this season — after an offseason in which the Vikings held competitions at kicker, punter and long snapper — owes plenty to Bailey’s bounce-back year and the presence of veteran punter and holder Britton Colquitt, who signed with the team at the end of the preseason following the release of Kaare Vedvik.
But it’s been rookie long snapper Austin Cutting who has quietly lent stability to the group with his consistency during his first season, special teams coordinator Marwan Maalouf said Friday.
“That makes a huge difference,” Maalouf said. “What he’s done with his level of consistency is really good for a rookie. I look at all these guys that made the Pro Bowl and stuff like that, and I’d put him up against anybody, really. I think he’s beyond his years. He’s an incredibly intelligent guy, and he’s got the mentality you want in a long snapper.
“The best part is usually not talking about somebody like him, but he deserves the recognition just as much as Britton and Dan, really.”
The Vikings kept Cutting, their 12th and final pick in the draft last spring, over Kevin McDermott this year.
“I think he’s just very levelheaded; there’s no highs and lows, there’s no peaks and valleys,” Maalouf said. “We try to put him in as many game situations as possible, just to get him ready for it, and he’s stepped up to the challenge.”
Packers gave Cousins trouble on play action
No NFL quarterback, according to Pro Football Focus, has been more effective on play action this season than Kirk Cousins, who has posted a 135.3 passer rating while throwing for 14 touchdowns against one interception off play fakes.
Cousins’ lone interception — and one of his rare days without play-action success — came in Week 2 against the Packers, when he completed just four of his nine passes for 44 yards on play action.
The Packers took something of a novel approach to the Vikings’ play fakes that day, making a priority of taking away Cousins’ bootleg throws by attacking him off the edge of the Vikings’ line. Dalvin Cook rushed for 154 yards in the process, but with Cook unlikely to play Monday night because of chest and shoulder injuries, the Packers might be more emboldened to follow the approach they took in Week 2.
“I’d say it was somewhat unique,” offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski said. “I think teams go into it, they play their defense, they play their strengths, and they also look at us and say, ‘What do we want to stop?’ We’ll see what their plan is.
“I think that’s the fun part of this business for us; we have a plan going into it, and then we’ve got to be ready to adapt.”
Vikings open gates early on Monday
The Vikings announced they will open gates at U.S. Bank Stadium at 4:45 p.m. Monday, giving fans an extra half-hour to enter the stadium before the 7:15 kickoff against the Packers. The team ordinarily opens gates to the stadium two hours before kickoff.
With the Vikings’ final two games at home against the Packers and Bears, the team also reminded fans not to buy tickets from potentially untrustworthy sources, adding its only authorized sources for tickets are its own website, Ticketmaster, NFL Ticket Exchange, StubHub and SeatGeek.