Breaking news from the "We Didn't See This Coming" department: on Monday afternoon, longtime Vikings kicker Ryan Longwell sent out this cryptic Tweet:
To all in Viking Nation. Can't thank you enough for your cheers over the past 6 years! You've been awesome to me and my family. God Bless!— Ryan Longwell (@4thandLongwell) May 7, 2012
Just minutes later, Tom Pelissero confirmed what Longwell was alluding to:
Wow. #Vikings have cut Ryan Longwell.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) May 7, 2012
Pelissero followed up by saying that the parting ways of the Vikings and Longwell "was not in any way mutual", implying that Longwell would have preferred to stay with the team.
To say that the move was completely out of left field would be overstating things a bit--after all, the Vikings drafted kicker Blair Walsh in the 6th round of the draft this past April. But the company line was that Walsh had been drafted to come in and challenge the 15-year veteran for a spot in training camp, not that Longwell was already on his way out. Obviously that wasn't the case.
Longwell has had an amazingly consistent career as a member of the Packers and Vikings, but he did have his struggles in 2011. His field goal percentage was his worst as a Viking, and he rarely recorded touchbacks even though the NFL had moved up kickoffs to the 35 last year. His 633 points as a Viking ranks him third all-time for the franchise behind only Cris Carter (670) and Fred Cox (1365).
On one hand, cutting Longwell in the month of May doesn't make much sense--the Vikings are putting a lot of trust into a rookie kicker that had his own struggles. Walsh has a powerful leg but had accuracy issues his senior year of college. Not giving Longwell a fair chance to retain is spot in training camp comes across as rather short-sighted at first glance.
On the other hand, Longwell was due a lot of money. The 37-year-old was set to make $7 million over the next three years of his contract. That's a lot of money to tie into an aging kicker with
Hopefully the early dismissal from the Vikings will allow Longwell to catch on with another team. He was nothing but class both on and off the field during his entire tenure in Minnesota. If he's not ready to hang up those kicking cleats yet, maybe he can still do it elsewhere.