Reese Strickland/USA Today

Camp competition for Minnesota Vikings specialists

The Minnesota Vikings will have some new blood among their kickers and punters when practices start up this spring.

The Minnesota Vikings appear to be setting up for camp competition for their specialists this year, something that hasn’t happened since they drafted Blair Walsh and Jeff Locke.

The Vikings signed rookie punter Taylor Symmank (Texas Tech) and first-year kicker Marshall Koehn (Iowa) to reserve/future contracts on Tuesday, along with offensive tackle Reid Fragel.

Walsh was the Vikings’ sixth-round draft pick in 2012, but he was released after nine games when he was only 15-for-16 in extra points and 12-for-16 in field goal attempts. He also missed the likely game-winning 27-yard field goal attempt in the final minute of regulation against the Seattle Seahawks in the wild-card playoff game last year. The team signed Kai Forbath to replace Walsh and, while he hit all 15 of his field goals, he also missed three of 14 extra-point attempts.

The Vikings drafted Locke in the fifth round of the 2013 draft, but he has struggled with his consistency in three seasons. This year, he finished 29th in gross average at 42.6 yards and 25th in net average among qualifiers.

Forbath is under contract for 2017, but Locke is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent.

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Koehn spent the 2016 offseason and training camp with the Miami Dolphins but was released during roster cutdowns in the preseason. He appeared in three preseason games for the Dolphins and was 2-for-2 on field goal attempts, including a long of 45 yards. At Iowa, Koehn was 28-for-36 on field goal attempts, including a 57-yard game-winning field goal as time expired to defeat the University of Pittsburgh.

Symmank was in the Vikings’ rookie minicamp last May but wasn’t part of the team’s organized team activities or training camp as they kept any competition away from Walsh. Symmank averaged 46.0 yards per punt during his senior year at Texas Tech and holds the school record for gross punting average with a 43.6-yard career mark. He earned All-Big 12 honorable mention and was a Ray Guy Award candidate as a junior.

Fragel spent time on the Kansas City Chiefs’ practice squad in 2016. The seventh-round pick out of Ohio State has appeared in 13 preseason games with the Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Atlanta Falcons, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Chiefs and one regular-season game. He played four seasons (2009-12) at Ohio State and appeared in 51 games with 21 starts – nine at tight end and 12 at tackle.

On Monday, the Vikings re-signed nine practice-squad players to futures contracts: WR Moritz Böhringer, DT Sterling Bailey, TE Kyle Carter, WR Cayleb Jones, T Marquis Lucas, CB Tre Roberson, RB Bishop Sankey, T Austin Shepherd and S Cedric Thompson.


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