When Austin Cutting was drafted this April, it shocked those who were still watching. Seventh round NFL Draft picks don’t usually surprise fanbases, but NFL teams don’t usually draft long snappers. Cutting was picked at 250th overall, ahead of other draftable quarterbacks, wide receivers and offensive linemen that the team would later add as undrafted free agents. He, for whatever reason, is considered a valuable prospect by the Minnesota Vikings front office. To add to the mystery, Austin Cutting was unsure if he could even play in the NFL in 2019. As a graduate of the Air Force Academy, he would have to fulfill his service requirement, per the Academy’s Oath of Allegiance. Even with that risk, the Vikings’ management decided to lock up the young long snapper.
Why he will make the team:
Austin Cutting continues to overcome the odds. He has already overcome so many unlikely scenarios to get to where he is right now. The Minnesota Vikings had never drafted a long snapper in franchise history, until Austin Cutting. The Air Force Academy has not had a player drafted into the NFL since 2006, when linebacker Anthony Schlegel was drafted in the third round, until Austin Cutting. The Air Force had actually never produced an offensive lineman, let alone a long snapper, aside from Sid Abramowitz – a tackle who played for the Baltimore Colts in the 1980s – until Austin Cutting. Most Air Force Academy players have never been able to play professional sports due to their service requirement, until President Donald Trump waived the requirement for professional athletes in June 2019. Per the Pioneer Press, Cutting will be among the first athletes to take advantage of this new policy.
Why he will not make the team:
Kevin McDermott is still on the team, with more starting experience. Cutting and McDermott will have a direct competition to be the Minnesota Vikings’ starting long snapper. Scrapping McDermott would only save the Vikings $760,000 in cap space, $495,000 of which would go to Cutting. That’s not even enough savings left over to sign a free agent for the veteran minimum. Contractually, there is little advantage to keeping one over the other. Where McDermott does have an advantage over Cutting, in addition to playing experience, is Practice Squad eligibility. Cutting could be demoted to the practice squad, retaining his status as a Viking while McDermott is on the starting roster. If Cutting is given the job, McDermott could not join the practice squad, and would have to be cut outright from the roster. Still, this is only a small advantage for McDermott. He will have to outplay Cutting to keep his job, but McDermott has won long snapper battles in the past, and he certainly could do it again.
Even more shocking than the fact that the Vikings drafted a long snapper in the NFL draft is the fact that the Vikings are having a bona-fide long snapper battle in Training Camp. Still, that is the reality of the situation. With Austin Cutting being cleared for training camp, and incumbent long snapper Kevin McDermott having next-to-no contractual advantages over Cutting, this is as close to a pure competition as there will be in camp. Other positional battles will have clear favorites due to resources spent to get those players, Garett Bradbury getting the first shot at Center for example, but there is no obvious favorite here. It is man against man, with the better snapper getting the job. After everything has seemingly gone right for Austin Cutting, and the staff clearly seems to think highly of him, I would give him the slightest advantage. The Minnesota Vikings may have a new long snapper in 2019, and his journey to the NFL is just as good as any other player.