Over a year ago, as the Vikings went through the offseason after coming up one game short of playing in the Super Bowl at U.S. Bank Stadium, a theme emerged: Decisionmakers weren’t going to be lulled into a false sense of security by their 2017 success.
This showed up most obviously in their pursuit of free agent quarterback Kirk Cousins. While the Vikings almost certainly could have retained Case Keenum, the primary QB during their 13-3 season in 2017, they instead spent $84 million guaranteed for three seasons of Cousins.
Sheldon Richardson was added to the defense in another big-money move (albeit for just one season), but the Cousins move was the one most of us rightfully fixated upon in 2018.
Having witnessed the regression from 2009 to 2010, when the Vikings essentially brought back all their starters the last time they came that close to the Super Bowl, I thought the Cousins move was a risk worth taking.
That it didn’t work out to the degree everyone hoped in 2018 – a chaotic season on several fronts that ended 8-7-1 and short of the playoffs, let alone the Super Bowl – doesn’t mean it was a bad decision.
In retrospect, however, it is fair to wonder if a different area in which the Vikings chased an upgrade instead of hanging onto a known commodity was really worth it.
Vikings fans like to think of the kicking game as being perpetually unsettled since Blair Walsh’s playoff miss ended the 2015 season, but the operation in 2017 was actually fine.
Kai Forbath made 32 of 38 field goals in the regular season (including 6 of 9 from 50-plus yards). He missed five extra points, which is as baffling as it is less than ideal, but for the most part he was solid.
And he made a go-ahead 53-yard field goal with 1:34 left against the Saints in the playoffs. If the Vikings had stopped Drew Brees on 4th and 10 on the next series, Forbath would have been the hero and the Minneapolis Miracle wouldn’t exist.
Ryan Quigley punted for the Vikings that year and did a respectable job. He had zero touchbacks during the regular season and generally helped Minnesota with field position. He was also the holder on Forbath’s kicks – and that seemed to go fine as well.
Bringing both guys back would have been pretty easy – maybe not the stuff of greatness, but some continuity at spots where that can be a real asset.
Instead, of course, the Vikings drafted Daniel Carlson in the fifth round – signaling the end for Forbath, which became official during the preseason when he was cut. Perhaps more surprisingly, Quigley was cut in early September, a week before the regular season, in favor of Matt Wile.
Carlson lasted two regular-season games before he was cut in favor of Dan Bailey, the fifth-most accurate kicker in NFL history (just a tick above Forbath, by the way, who is 10th). Bailey wasn’t great last year, nor was Wile. Both have had issues in camp, which led to Sunday’s trade and Monday’s introduction of Kaare Vedvik.
Vedvik might be the new placekicker. Maybe he’ll be the new punter. Mike Zimmer doesn’t know yet, and he probably won’t know for at least a week.
Vedvik might turn out to be great, justifying the fifth-round pick it took to get him. Or it might just be one more failed attempt at chasing greatness — one that probably could have and should have been avoided around this time last year.