Vinatieri Set Precedent

Teams are finding that you don't need to overpay for a clutch kicker when there's talent available in the Draft. The Patriots may have set the precedent by parting ways with Adam Vinatieri, but other teams -- like the Eagles and Vikings -- have come to similar conclusions.

Vikings' youth movement claims PK Longwell
By The Sports Xchange

   All of us were caught off-guard by the Vikings' decision to draft a kicker and release veteran Ryan Longwell two weeks later.

   We shouldn't have been.

   The team's youth movement, ushered into overdrive when Rick Spielman was elevated to general manager in January, is an across-the-board philosophy that doesn't make exceptions for well-respected nice guys nearing their 38th birthday and coming off a sub-par year.

   "Ryan has won a lot of ballgames for us," Spielman said May 10, two days after releasing Longwell. "Those are the decisions that are tough ones to make. ... I think our emphasis has always been trying to get our team better, get it younger and that's the direction we kind of went. It just fits in with everything else we're kind of honed in on this offseason."

   Longwell made 22 of 28 field goal attempts last season. The 78.6 percent accuracy mark was the worst of his six-year stint in Minnesota. But he had also made 90 percent of his attempts (72 of 80) the previous three years and had brought years of comfort to a tumultuous position when he arrived from Green Bay in 2006.

   Longwell is being replaced by Blair Walsh, a sixth-round draft pick from Georgia. Walsh had a terrible senior season, missing 14 of 35 field goal attempts, but Spielman said the team believes it can help Walsh recapture the success he had while making 40 of 45 attempts during his sophomore and junior seasons.

   The Vikings also drafted Walsh because of his considerable leg strength, which caught the team's eye at the scouting combine. Even with kickoffs moved to the 35-yard line last season, Longwell still had only 19 touchbacks on 77 kicks.

   "The kickoffs are a huge part of our game because you're seeing teams and how they eliminate the kick (returner)," Spielman said. "And we play some very explosive kick (returners) in this division. Being able to have touchbacks can be a huge advantage."

   The Vikings would never admit it, but, realistically, they're building for 2013 or 2014, depending on quarterback Christian Ponder's development. Making the transition at kicker now allows Walsh to get comfortable during a low-pressure season. It also avoids the possibility of having to replace Longwell when he's in his 40s and the team is ready to contend.

   "Ryan had probably not his best year, but I wouldn't be surprised if he is still kicking in this league," Spielman said. "He's had a unique career here and a unique career in Green Bay, and he's even a better person. ... I think the biggest thing too is to be fair to Ryan. If we felt that strongly about the rookie kicker, (we wanted) to give Ryan an opportunity (to find another job) now instead of waiting until the end of training camp."

   In hindsight, the move does make sense. It also makes sense when one looks around at how other teams have handled successful kickers who got older but weren't washed up.

   In 2006, the Patriots drafted Stephen Gostkowski in the fourth round and released Adam Vinatieri, the best kicker of his generation if not ever. Last year, the Eagles drafted Alex Henery in the fourth round and released David Akers, probably the best kicker that team has ever had.

   Akers went on to San Francisco, where he made a sixth Pro Bowl while setting an NFL record for points by a kicker (166) and extending the mark for consecutive field goals made to 44.

   But in Philly, the young Henery made 24 of 27 field goal attempts to set the NFL record for field goal accuracy by a rookie (88.9).
If contending teams such as the Patriots and Eagles can replace the likes of Vinatieri and Akers, we shouldn't be surprised that Longwell has been replaced on a team that's rebuilding after a 3-13 season.

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\r\n","mobileBody":" By The Sports Xchange    All of us were caught off-guard by the Vikings' decision to draft a kicker and release veteran Ryan Longwell two weeks later.    We shouldn't have been.    The team's youth movement, ushered into overdrive when Rick Spielman was elevated to general manager in January, is an across-the-board philosophy that doesn't make exceptions for well-respected nice guys nearing their 38th birthday and coming off a sub-par year.    \"Ryan has won a lot of ballgames for us,\" Spielman said May 10, two days after releasing Longwell. \"Those are the decisions that are tough ones to make. ... I think our emphasis has always been trying to get our team better, get it younger and that's the direction we kind of went. It just fits in with everything else we're kind of honed in on this offseason.\"    Longwell made 22 of 28 field goal attempts last season. The 78.6 percent accuracy mark was the worst of his six-year stint in Minnesota. But he had also made 90 percent of his attempts (72 of 80) the previous three years and had brought years of comfort to a tumultuous position when he arrived from Green Bay in 2006.    Longwell is being replaced by Blair Walsh, a sixth-round draft pick from Georgia. Walsh had a terrible senior season, missing 14 of 35 field goal attempts, but Spielman said the team believes it can help Walsh recapture the success he had while making 40 of 45 attempts during his sophomore and junior seasons.    The Vikings also drafted Walsh because of his considerable leg strength, which caught the team's eye at the scouting combine. Even with kickoffs moved to the 35-yard line last season, Longwell still had only 19 touchbacks on 77 kicks.    \"The kickoffs are a huge part of our game because you're seeing teams and how they eliminate the kick (returner),\" Spielman said. \"And we play some very explosive kick (returners) in this division. Being able to have touchbacks can be a huge advantage.\"    The Vikings would never admit it, but, realistically, they're building for 2013 or 2014, depending on quarterback Christian Ponder's development. Making the transition at kicker now allows Walsh to get comfortable during a low-pressure season. It also avoids the possibility of having to replace Longwell when he's in his 40s and the team is ready to contend.    \"Ryan had probably not his best year, but I wouldn't be surprised if he is still kicking in this league,\" Spielman said. \"He's had a unique career here and a unique career in Green Bay, and he's even a better person. ... I think the biggest thing too is to be fair to Ryan. If we felt that strongly about the rookie kicker, (we wanted) to give Ryan an opportunity (to find another job) now instead of waiting until the end of training camp.\"    In hindsight, the move does make sense. It also makes sense when one looks around at how other teams have handled successful kickers who got older but weren't washed up.    In 2006, the Patriots drafted Stephen Gostkowski in the fourth round and released Adam Vinatieri, the best kicker of his generation if not ever. Last year, the Eagles drafted Alex Henery in the fourth round and released David Akers, probably the best kicker that team has ever had.    Akers went on to San Francisco, where he made a sixth Pro Bowl while setting an NFL record for points by a kicker (166) and extending the mark for consecutive field goals made to 44.    But in Philly, the young Henery made 24 of 27 field goal attempts to set the NFL record for field goal accuracy by a rookie (88.9). If contending teams such as the Patriots and Eagles can replace the likes of Vinatieri and Akers, we shouldn't be surprised that Longwell has been replaced on a team that's rebuilding after a 3-13 season. 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