After Blair Walsh missed his third field goal of the season against the New York Giants on Oct. 3, it was just another sign for those that believe the Minnesota Vikings should cut their losses at the position.
At the time, it was Walsh’s third miss in 10 tries and it took the startch out of a 47-yard drive that the Vikings had to open the second half while trying to build on a 14-3 halftime lead.
Head coach Mike Zimmer clearly wasn’t happy with the miss, but after hitting a 44-yard field on the very next drive and being a Monday night game with a short week to prepare, Walsh seemed to have a reprieve on the pressure until at least the Vikings’ bye week.
However, Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said on Tuesday that he doesn’t see the team making any more personnel moves during the bye this week.
“I think that’s where we’ll be at this week,” he said. “I don’t see us doing another personnel move this week.”
Well, the Vikings suffered a significant injury in that Monday night win over the Giants when right tackle Andre Smith was lost for the season with a triceps injury that required surgery this week. That meant not only having to eat most of Smith’s salary – the 10th player to be placed on Minnesota’s reserve lists this year – but also created the need to try to squeeze in another signing by adding veteran tackle Jake Long to bolster the team’s depth and talent at tackle.
Spielman admitted on Tuesday that the Vikings had less than $50,000 in salary-cap space before the Long signing and needed a “magic wand” over the salary cap to make that signing possible.
Cutting Walsh would create about $1.5 million in additional salary cap expenses as part of the $2.75 signing bonus included in the four-year, $13 million contract he received.
What’s left for the Vikings, then, is to try to help Walsh turn around his struggling start to the season.
“Blair has had some struggles and he will admit that, but … I’ve been pretty patient, especially with these young guys, and last week he kicked the ball well with his kickoffs and he hit all of his PATs and hit the 19-yard field goal,” Spielman said.
Through five games, Walsh has now hit 9 of 12 fields, or 75 percent of his attempts. Last year, he hit 87.2 percent of his 39 attempts but missed what likely would have been a game-winning 27-yard in team’s first-round playoff loss, putting him under the microscope with fans. In 2014, he hit only 74.3 percent of field goals, but in 2013 it was 86.7 percent, and 92.1 percent in his record-setting rookie year.
However, he has also missed two extra points already this season and missed four PATs last year, the first time the NFL moved the point-after try to essentially make it a 33-yard kick.
While his three misses on 12 attempts are less than ideal, he is still one of eight kickers to have missed at least three attempts, and six of them have fewer attempts than him. The kicking inaccuracies were highlighted on Monday night when Tampa Bay second-round pick Robert Aguayo missed two field goals before hitting the game winner, giving him four makes in eight attempts this season.
The Vikings admit that Walsh has struggled this season, but their hands may be tied to a degree because of their salary cap situation. They say they “monitor” the situation.
“We’ll monitor that as well, but we don’t have any plans of bringing in a kicker at this point,” Spielman said. “There is no question that it’s not physical ability or leg strength or anything like that, it’s just him getting his confidence back up to where it was and I think he’ll be able to do that.”