Blair Walsh is no longer a member of the Minnesota Vikings. After missing his fourth extra point of the year on Sunday, the organization decided enough was enough, releasing the former Pro Bowl kicker on Tuesday.
Walsh hasn’t been the same kicker since his devastating playoff miss against the Seattle Seahawks last year. He made just 75 percent of his attempts this year (12-of-16) and drew the ire of Vikings fans around the country. Walsh’s head coach, Mike Zimmer, wouldn’t commit to the veteran kicker on Monday morning.
“We’re going to see what the options are at kicker, and then make a determination and go,” he told reporters when asked if the team would explore replacing Walsh. Zimmer likely knew the answer but waited until the Vikings’ day off to make the news official.
As Tom Pelissero first reported, the Vikings are expected to sign Kai Forbath this afternoon. Forbath last played for the Washington Redskins in 2015, going 1-for-2 on field goals and 1-for-1 on extra points. He also appeared in 10 games for the New Orleans Saints, making 9-of-13 field goals and connecting on 33-of-34 extra points.
Walsh leaves the Vikings tied for third in franchise history with 133 field goals made. He connected on 84.2 percent of his attempts since 2012, with a career-long of 54 yards. His early success warranted a contract extension from the Vikings, who signed Walsh to a four-year, $14-million extension before the 2015 regular season.
The extension was a sign of trust and confidence, but that equity lost value with every shanked kick and wobbly PAT. Sunday’s extra point miss, which kept the Redskins within a touchdown, appeared to be the final straw for Zimmer, Rick Spielman, and the organization.
With Walsh gone, the Vikings now face a rash of dead money on the books. According to Chris Tomasson, it’s $3.35 million this year, then $1.65 million, $1.1 million, and $550,000 the following years.
In hindsight, Walsh’s extension feels like a blunder of a decision, but the NFL’s a game of strategy, luck, and missed opportunities. Spielman didn’t know at the time his kicker would tank, much like he didn’t know he’d lose four offensive linemen over the course of the 2016 season. Mistakes have been made, but the Vikings can only move forward with the pieces in the building.
Their newest piece, Forbath, has a chance to immediately improve Minnesota’s kicking game. Between 2012 and 2014, Forbath made 88.1 percent of his field goal attempts.