Last year, the Vikings used a sixth-round pick on kicker Blair Walsh. When Walsh showed he was as good as advertised in the team's rookie minicamp, the team wasted little time in releasing Ryan Longwell, whose annual salary was more than the total of Walsh's rookie contract. Considering that Walsh was named to the Pro Bowl, something Longwell never did in his long and illustrious career, the Vikings had few regrets about that decision.
The current available wisdom has it that if Locke showed the special teams coaching staff enough to earn the job – which may be tied as much to his ability as a holder as his ability as a punter – Kluwe will be told today that he has been released. Last Tuesday, general manager Rick Spielman appeared on the PFT Live program and told host Mike Florio that he had met with Kluwe the day before and would meet again today. Over the weekend, the Vikings watched Locke punt and hold at the team's rookie minicamp.
Over the last few days, Kluwe has confirmed that he would be informed following the rookie camp what his status will be with the team. It seems a rather helpless feeling for a player who has been the Vikings punter since 2005. He has survived two coaching changes, but it would appear that, barring a dismal performance by Locke, like his fellow special teams partner Longwell, he may be released without having a competition for his job.
There has been a lot of discussion over the last week that Kluwe's use of his celebrity to shine a spotlight on causes that mean a lot to him. He has been outspoken on everything from his support of same-sex marriage to his opposition of the NFL's feet-dragging when it comes to accepting responsibility for the care of players who have suffered permanent injury as part of being an NFL player.
Whether that factor plays into the decision or not is clearly up to interpretation. Spielman would never admit that the Vikings would get rid of Kluwe because of his stance on social causes and expletive-laden on-line diatribes – such an admission could open a legal can of worms nobody in the organization would want to deal with – but, in his comments justifying the Locke selection, he made it clear that the Vikings are constantly looking to improve at any position.
He used the first three picks as his comparison. Should the players at those positions be concerned about the team bringing in a rookie? It wasn't the best comparison because it seems clear that Kevin Williams is in his last season with the Vikings and Sharrif Floyd is going to replace him. With Antoine Winfield gone and oft-injured Chris Cook in the final year of his deal, the drafting of Xavier Rhodes made perfect sense. With Percy Harvin traded and Michael Jenkins released, the need at wide receiver was obvious and the Vikings selected Cordarrelle Patterson.
There was no clear need at punter. Kluwe had a decent 2012 season and, if Spielman was legitimate in saying Kluwe and Locke will have a punting battle, there won't be any news today. If Kluwe is released, it will merely confirm what everyone who wasn't standing in front of a microphone a week ago Saturday night was already believing – the competition will be over before it ever begins.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.