Monday, November 30, 2015

chris kluwe

[Note:  Want to see a list of every player featured in our “Draft Target” segment?  Click here to visit the Offseason Tracker where there will be a list of all these players.  Check back often as there are plenty more to come!]

If you haven’t guessed by this point in the offseason, yes, I have a sneaking suspicion that the Vikings might proactively look towards the NFL Draft to replace veteran Chris Kluwe before the final year of his contract is played out.  In my profile of Louisiana Tech punter Ryan Allen I talked about Kluwe’s high salary, special teams coordinator Mike Priefer’s comments about Kluwe’s exhaustive off field endeavours  and also just the possibility of finding an upgrade at the position.

Since writing that article I have become even more convinced (keep in mind now, this strictly irresponsible speculation Adam talking, not news reporting Adam) that Kluwe’s cap hit could be reason enough for his early exit.  The team currently has about $4.4 million in cap space, which is not likely to even be enough to sign their entire Draft class, let alone sign a guy like Antoine Winfield to a new contract on top of that.  That means something has to happen, and while Kevin Williams or Jared Allen could still be candidates to change their contract status, finding an upgrade to Kluwe in the Draft and exchanging his $1.4 million salary for a rookie deal might just make too much sense.

The key to all of this, however, is finding a rookie that can be a clear upgrade to Kluwe like the Vikings found at kicker last year with Blair Walsh.  I’ve already talked about how I think Ray Allen is that guy but may require a very high level of investment from a draft pick standpoint.  This is actually a fairly talented and fairly deep punter class, but outside of Allen only one other guy really stands out as an excellent prospect.

LSU’s Brad Wing (6′ 3″ and 184 pounds) is unlikely to relieve Priefer of all drama on his squad, as he comes with a bit of a history.  Wing is Australian born (do I even need to continue?) and, thus, has a brazen attitude and a tendency to find himself a “good time.”  Its okay, I can say stuff like that, my best friend is an Aussie.

He first became noticed on a national level when he… a punter, mind you… nullified his own 52 yard touchdown run on a fake due to taunting the opponents prior to crossing the goalline.  In his defense, as the video evidence shows, it was kind of a weak call.  His troubles didn’t stop there as he was suspended for the Chick-Fil-A Bowl due to breaking team rules, and at least one unconfirmed report said it was substance related, and there have been rumors of other off-field incidents plaguing the young talent.

Wing became the first punter to declare early for the NFL Draft, he was a redshirt sophomore in 2012, since Chris Gardocki did it way back in 1991 and he certainly has the leg to justify such a move.

Wing started 24 games at LSU after playing just one year of high school ball as an exchange student.  He was second in the SEC with a 2011 punt average of 44.4 yards and last ranked 12th in the nation with a 44.8 yard average.  He occasionally unleashes ridiculously powerful punts like his 73 yarder against Alabama in 2011, eight more career punts of 60 yards or greater.

Perhaps even more important, however, is the talent he displays for directional punting.  He has explained that his ability to do this with such proficiency comes from another game in another hemisphere:  Australian Rules Football.

“You can score from any angle and distance so there’s a lot of kicks I’ve gotten used to over the years where the American kickers they just kind of stand there and kick it as far and high as they can,” Wing said in 2011. “That’s not my mindset. I’m just trying to kick it away from the return man. Coming over to America, I didn’t really understand why punters kicked to the return man.”

As of that article, dated January 6th, 2011, Wing had amazingly punted the football 50 times and LSU had only allowed six (yes, six) punt return yards in total.  That is pretty amazing, really.

Now, maybe having Tyrann Mathieu on the coverage squad had a lot to do with that, because LSU’s overall punting game was quite as dominant in 2012, but Wing still was a cut above most punter prospects in most respects.

The question for NFL teams is whether or not they will be able to depend on Wing to stay out of trouble and be available on a weekly basis.  The last thing an NFL team wants to do is use two roster spots on punters because the first one couldn’t stay smart.  Without knowing how teams truly view Wing’s character it is impossible to predict where he will be selected.  He is talented enough to be a third round pick, but is troubled enough to go undrafted.

If he starts to fall on Draft weekend, and the Vikings are intrigued enough, then he might just be a solution to a problem that is only one year away from being a significant one.  For some NFL team’s fans, he will surely be one of the most intriguing players to watch in training camp.


Last year, the Jaguars shocked everyone by selecting a punter in the third round of the NFL Draft instead of using the pick to try and find solutions for any one of their other pressing needs.  No punter had been drafted that high in over 15 years.

As a rookie, Bryan Anger was a top ten punter with an average of 47.8 yards per punt.  He had a net average of 40.8 yards per punt.  He landed an impressive 31 punts, of his 91 total, inside the opponent’s 20 yard line.  The product out of Cal may always cause Jaguar fans to twitch, since they ignored quarterback Russell Wilson while selecting him, but he certainly had a high quality rookie season.

Louisiana Tech’s punter Ryan Allen is even better.

The senior beat out Anger and others for the Ray Guy Award in 2011 and continued his dominating college career in 2012.  Last year he averaged 48 yards per punt and put on an absolute show at the Senior Bowl with a 52.4 yard average on five attempts.  Allen led the nation with a net average of 43.5 yards and placed 44% of his punts inside the 20 yard line.  He earned an All-American First Team nod for his season-long proficiency at his position, and also became the first punter ever to win the Ray Guy Award in back-to-back seasons.

So, with Chris Kluwe already on the roster, why I am listing Allen as potential target for the Vikings?

For starters, Kluwe’s value and standing has arguably taken a hit in recent seasons due to an increase of inconsistencies, as well as an increase in salary.  Off the field, Kluwe’s ventures have soured some of the fan base, and even his special teams coach has made comments suggesting that Kluwe’s antics can be exhausting.

Kluwe is now 31 years old, coming off of a surgery to repair his left meniscus, is entering the final year of his career, and is scheduled to make $1.4 million in 2013.  If the Vikings can find a way to upgrade at any position, even punter, while also saving money then they should not hesitate.

I am not saying the Vikings should use a third rounder on Allen, by any means, but I am saying that this is a kid they should keep a close eye on as day three of the Draft progresses.  After all, it was just last year that the Vikings sent a decorated veteran packing after selecting rookie kicker Blair Walsh, and it couldn’t have worked out better.

Punters are people, too!

(But, they are punters, so don’t expect a highlight reel to show up here like we would have for virtually any other player of any other position in the game of football.  Sorry.)

Percy Harvin was recently at Winter Park for his exit physical and Leslie Frazier, as usual, calmly assessed the situation.

“It went well. He’s fine. He’s cleared,” Frazier said. “All the medical was good.”

This indicates that Harvin’s ankle sprain should be a non-issue moving forward, but the more pressing question surrounding Harvin is whether or not he’ll be playing as a member of the Minnesota Vikings or some other team in 2013.

Frazier said that his star receiver was in a “good frame of mind” during his time at winter park.  “We’ll see where it goes from there,” he added.

It was also recently reported that Harvin hit escalators in his contract that will nearly double his currently scheduled salary for 2013.  He is now scheduled to earn $2.9 million under his current deal, but there is no reason to expect him to step foot on a football field during the upcoming season unless he is under the terms and conditions of a brand new deal.

As far as Harvin goes, I will still direct you to this article that I penned quite some time ago.  Nothing has really changed since then, other than Harvin’s salary.

Harvin isn’t the only player that got a boost next year from unlocking incentives.  Chris Cook, Joe Webb, Everson Griffen, and Toby Gerhart are all members of the 2010 Draft class and each unlocked a salary increase that will bring them each to $650,000.  Cook also unlocked a $1 million roster bonus and will carry a cap hit of $2.305 in 2013.

Meanwhile, with Harvin getting healthy again, two of his teammates recently went under the knife.  Punter Chris Kluwe had his knee cleaned up because of some loose cartilage.  The Vikings signed punter T.J. Conley to a reserve/future contract, but it is unlikely that Kluwe’s surgery cuts into any of his offseason practice time.

Jared Allen also had surgery, the first of his football career, due to a torn labrum that he played with through the entire 2012 season.  Allen delayed the surgery so that he could participate in the Pro Bowl, but he is still expected to be ready to go by the time training camp rolls around.

I’m a little late getting this week’s Links segment kicked out to you all, but there are still plenty of great articles to point you towards as you wait for tomorrow’s kickoff.  Read them, tell the author what you think, and tell them who sent you:

  • The Vikings passing offense is going to be a main sticking point in almost every game preview from here on out.
  • Allen the Entertainer went on Jim Rome’s new show and had quite the fun time blasting recent changes to the game of football.
  • When building this Vikings team the front office has to be aware that they will most likely be playing their home games outdoors for two years.
  • Anyone that still clings to the idea that the NFL is not a quarterback driven league need not look much further than the 2012 Minnesota Vikings.
  • Here is a dream that just seems incredibly too pleasant to ever come true.
  • Chris Kluwe got fined for his uniform infraction on Sunday, and his special teams coach has just about had it with his punter.
  • I found a Bill Musgrave supporter!  Take that Sasquatch hunters!
  • Todd McShay put down the self-tanner long enough to release his first mock draft and he has the Vikings using their pick on a defensive tackle with the last name “Williams.”  That has worked well for us in the past.
  • A.J. Jefferson’s concussion last Sunday shouldn’t hold him out this week, but he was plenty scared following the injury.
  • Scroll down past the game recap (unless you want to read it, of course) to the table that compares Christian Ponder to Tarvaris Jackson.  Then, drink heavily.
  • Bill Musgrave says that Christian Ponder’s footwork “needs to be more refined.”  He also contends that books have pages and that cows say “moo.”
  • Leslie Frazier has told defensive end D’Aundre Reed, who hasn’t been active for two weeks, to be patient.
  • The question of whether or not Minnesota can afford their new Vikings stadium is not yet answered, and won’t be for a long time.
  • How this offseason goes for free agents Dwight Freeney and Osi Umeniyora could tell us a lot about Jared Allen’s potential future, or lack thereof, in Minnesota.
  • Some really fun conceptual pictures of the future stadium in Mineapolis.
  • Jerome Felton has been a very solid fullback paving the way for Adrian Peterson, but rookie Rhett Ellison might be even better in that area.
  • Everson Griffen avoided a fine for his hit high on Jay Cutler last week.
  • Bryant McKinnie used to look like an All Pro against lesser talents while looking like a clown against the better pass rushers in the NFL.  Rookie Matt Kalil, however, looks like an All Pro no matter who lines up across from him.
  • A lot weird things can happen on any given Sunday, but Vikes Geek points out three things that he considers to be ludicrous from last week.
  • Rookies Harrison Smith and Josh Robinson have proved to be just what the doctor ordered for an annually disappointing Vikings secondary.
  • Don’t click this link unless you are prepared to buy yourself the greatest Christmas present ever.

Local beat writers, perhaps in the spirit of election season, couldn’t wait to pounce on Chris Kluwe and Leslie Frazier this week in an attempt to generate interesting quotes about how Kluwe’s recent struggles on the field can, or cannot, be linked to his endeavors off the field.

Kluwe and Frazier predictably answered the questions appropriately, despite the media’s best attempts to use the phrase “child’s game” in provocative fashion, and everyone seems willing to move on with the only goal being to get better production out of the punt game.

I know that gay marriage is a hot button issue in the nation right now and Kluwe’s choice to take a stance is unpopular with about 50% of the population, but I can’t help but think that the extra attention being paid to this is strictly a result of the subject matter.  It is because people oppose his cause that this is drawing so much criticism as I am confident that nobody would be saying a word if his “cause” were raising money and awareness for cancer, fighting to save the rainforests from destruction, or supporting military members and their families.

We have a defensive end that trained to be an Olympian.  We have another that holds a golf tournament, published his own cook book, hunts whenever he gets the chance, appeared on MTV’s “Cribs,” and was willing to campaign on behalf of the Vikings controversial stadium efforts.  Our star running back filmed an episode of “Entourage,” has missed part of a training camp due to Adrian Peterson Day in Texas, and just yesterday visited a classroom of school children.  Christian Ponder and Chad Greenway have been spokesman for a program regarding financial literacy.

NFL players are people with lives, families, hobbies, beliefs, passions, and flaws.  Just like the rest of us, their personal lives probably do spill into their professional output but it is quite the stretch, in my opinion, to conclude that Kluwe’s recent activism has resulted in poor punting.  Unlike the rest of us, they have crazy schedules including TV appearances, endorsement deals, photo shoots, and so on and so on.

Did Peyton Manning’s recent purchasing of a piece of the pizza pie impact his production?  How about Matt Birk’s taping of an ad speaking out against gay marriage?  The list goes on and on and I won’t bore you by going through them all, but I will say this:

I have already talked with one person that swears up and down that Kluwe is distracted.  That very same person argued emphatically with me a couple of years back that there was no way, no how that Brett Favre could have possibly been distracted by the alleged claims of sexual harassment and sexting scandal.  Double standard much?

So, the point I am trying (and failing miserably) to get to is that Chris Kluwe needs to punt better.  I know it.  You know it.  He knows it.  The coaches know it.  However, trying to proclaim his personal time is the reason for his professional struggles, without any sort of proof, is just an oddly lazy route to take, whether it is by the media or the fans.

The bigger issue here is whether or not his punting is just experiencing a bad run, or if this will become a trend.  Kluwe is in the second-to-last year of his seven year contract and is set to make $1.3 million this season and $1.4 million next season, both of which are very high for a punter.

If his production doesn’t match his pay pretty soon he may not even reside in Minnesota any longer, let alone impact the political landscape.  He may have to figure out how to attend band practice via Skype, and he probably won’t be employed by the local radio station very long.

Football is far more likely to impact his personal life, rather than the other way around.

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