Blair Walsh

NFC Notes: Hawks, Falcons, Pack, Saints

The Seahawks had been in danger of losing a second-round pick for failing to disclose cornerback Richard Sherman‘s “significant” MCL injury during the season, but the NFL decided Monday to let them off with a warning, tweets Mike Garafolo of NFL.com. The league concluded that the Seahawks merely misinterpreted its rules, per Garafolo. The news that Seattle is escaping punishment isn’t particularly surprising, as one of Garafolo’s NFL.com colleagues, Ian Rapoport, reported earlier this month that Seattle wasn’t going to face serious discipline for its violation.

More from Seattle and a few other NFL cities:

  • The Falcons have hired Bush Hamdan as their quarterbacks coach, reports Sporting News’ Alex Marvez (Twitter link). The younger brother of former NFL quarterback Gibran Hamdan, Bush Hamdan spent the previous two seasons as the University of Washington’s wide receivers coach and pass game coordinator. He’s taking over in Atlanta for Matt LaFleur, now the Rams’ offensive coordinator. In doing so, Hamdan will reunite with head coach Dan Quinn, notes Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times (via Twitter), as the two worked together at the University of Florida in 2012.
  • The Packers have a decision to make on pending free agent defensive back Micah Hyde, who could seek $4MM-plus per year on his next contract, writes Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com. Hyde, who’s coming off an 11-start, three-interception season, has been with the Packers since they selected him in the fifth round of the 2013 draft. If Hyde moves on, Green Bay could turn to Kentrell Brice and Marwin Evans, Demovsky suggests. Elsewhere in the secondary, the team will either extend safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix or exercise his fifth-year option for 2018, as Demovsky opines that the Pro Bowler could be general manager Ted Thompson‘s best first-round pick since he chose Aaron Rodgers in 2005. Clinton-Dix made a strong case for that honor as a third-year pro in 2016, when he played every defensive snap for the Packers and picked off five passes.
  • Newly signed Seahawks kicker Blair Walsh‘s single-year contract is worth $1.1MM and includes no guaranteed money, per Sheil Kapadia of ESPN.com. Walsh stands to earn an $800K salary and could make another $300K in bonuses. The Seahawks are likely to bring in another kicker to compete against Walsh for the job this summer. Odds are that won’t be soon-to-be free agent Steven Hauschka, observes Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times, considering the five-year Seahawk will likely be out of their price range.
  • Continuing a Seahawks-heavy set of notes, defensive end Cliff Avril tweeted that he underwent successful surgery Tuesday. Avril didn’t specify which type of surgery he underwent, though Condotta points out that the physician who performed the procedure – Dr. William C. Meyers – specializes in core and sports hernia operations. Regardless, Avril should be fine for 2017 and will attempt to build on his first Pro Bowl season – an 11.5-sack, five-forced fumble campaign.
  • Fullback John Kuhn‘s one-year pact with the Saints is a minimum salary benefit deal worth $1.08MM, tweets Nick Underhill of The Advocate. Kuhn will earn a $1MM salary and count $695K against New Orleans’ cap in 2017.

Seahawks Sign Blair Walsh

The Seahawks have signed former Vikings kicker Blair Walsh, according to a league source who spoke with Field Yates of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Stephen Hauschka is a free agent, so Walsh could be the man to replace him. "<strong

[RELATED: Browns Claim Tyvis Powell From Seahawks]

Walsh and the Seahawks have some recent history together after he missed a game-winning field goal in the NFC Wild Card playoff matchup last year. Even though he badly missed that 27-yard chip shot, the Seahawks are intrigued by him and view him as their potential place kicker for 2017.

Last year, Walsh was cut by the Vikings in November and was unable to find work after that point. His 2016 season was rough, but he has a history of being a solid kicker. From 2012 through 2015, Walsh sank 85.2% of his field goal attempts, including going 6-of-8 from 50+ yards. In 2012, he was selected to the Pro Bowl and given First-Team All-Pro honors.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Vikings Release Kicker Blair Walsh

After weeks of speculation, the Vikings have given Blair Walsh his walking papers. The Vikings have released the veteran kicker, and are likely replacing him with Kai Forbath, as Tom Pelissero of USA Today Sports tweetsBlair Walsh (vertical)

Walsh’s struggles have been well-documented and they reach back to last season’s unfortunate mishap in the playoffs. This year, Walsh missed more “easy” field goals and the team decided that they cannot wait any longer for him to get over the yips. Walsh leaves Minnesota with a 75% field goal percentage including one miss inside of 39 yards and two misses inside of 49 yards. Walsh has also missed four extra points from the league’s new extended range. His latest XP miss came during this past weekend’s loss to the Redskins.

Last week, special-teams coordinator Mike Priefer expressed optimism that the team’s kicker tryouts would light a fire under Walsh. He did improve in practice, but the on-field results were still shaky. Now, Forbath will try to do better as he joins his third NFL team.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Vikings Haven’t Ruled Out Replacing Blair Walsh

Following another subpar outing from Blair Walsh on Sunday, the Vikings may be in the market for a kicker. According to Chris Tomasson of TwinCities.com, coach Mike Zimmer didn’t rule out replacing the slumping kicker. The reporter tweets that the team has yet to make a decision regarding the position, although he notes that the coach is set to meet with general manager Rick Spielman on Monday evening.

Blair Walsh (vertical)“We’re going to see what all the options are,” Zimmer said. “We’re going to see what the options are at kicker and then make a determination and go.”

Walsh, a five-year veteran, missed another extra point during this past weekend’s loss to the Redskins. This came a week after the team worked out six kickers, including Kai Forbath and Randy Bullock. Ultimately, the team decided to stick with Walsh.

I knew how he would react,” special-teams coordinator Mike Priefer said (via ESPN.com’s Ben Goessling). “It kind of lit a fire under him. He got ticked off in a good way, I think, because he’s a competitive young man. When you bring in guys that are potentially going to take your job, guys that want your job, that’s the way you want him to react. If he didn’t react that way, I would be really worried, and we probably would be looking for another guy. He got — I don’t want to say angry, but he got a little fired up in a very respectful way, just like he always is. I expect him to go out and kick well for us this weekend and the rest of the year.”

The Vikings coaching staff’s patience is undoubtedly wearing thin. Walsh’s struggles began during last season’s Wild Card round, when he missed a field goal that could have given his team the victory. The former Pro Bowler’s struggles have carried over to this season, as Walsh has only connected on 75-percent of his field goals and 15-of-19 extra point attempts. For comparison’s sake, the 26-year-old made 87-percent of his field goal attempts in 2015.

NFC Notes: Romo, Vaccaro, Vikings

Quarterback Tony Romo is unlikely to be in uniform when the Cowboys face the Steelers on Sunday, but when he does return from a back injury, it seems probable he’ll serve as rookie standout Dak Prescott‘s backup. If that happens, Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones expects Romo to accept the role with grace. “Any athlete who’s played a sport they want to contribute and certainly he does,” Jones told 105.3 The Fan on Friday (via Max Meyer of NFL.com). “At the same time Tony’s the consummate team player and I think if it meant as part of the process with Tony going into games as a backup then, I don’t want to speak for him, but my guess would be that he would.” The answer will come soon enough, as the four-time Pro Bowler practiced in full this week. If Romo isn’t active Sunday (he’s currently questionable), he should be back for the Cowboys’ Week 11 matchup against Baltimore.

More from the NFC:

  • The Vikings were auditioning kickers and pondering a move away from Blair Walsh, but it seems like he has gotten back on track in recent days. “I knew how he would react,” special-teams coordinator Mike Priefer said (via ESPN.com’s Ben Goessling). “It kind of lit a fire under him. He got ticked off in a good way, I think, because he’s a competitive young man. When you bring in guys that are potentially going to take your job, guys that want your job, that’s the way you want him to react. If he didn’t react that way, I would be really worried, and we probably would be looking for another guy. He got — I don’t want to say angry, but he got a little fired up in a very respectful way, just like he always is. I expect him to go out and kick well for us this weekend and the rest of the year.”
  • Saints head coach Sean Payton and safety Kenny Vaccaro aren’t pleased with the way they learned of Vaccaro’s pending four-game suspension for Adderall on Thursday, per Josh Katzenstein of NOLA.com. Payton had no advance notice of the suspension, only finding out via media reports, while Vaccaro didn’t know punishment was definitely coming. He did receive a vague notification beforehand, though. “We got a letter, but that’s just a preliminary letter that it could be a possible something,” Vaccaro said. “But, there have been mistakes before.” Vaccaro and the Saints are now awaiting the results of a second sample, which he told Katzenstein hasn’t yet been tested, and is unsure when his potential suspension would begin. In the meantime, he’ll play Sunday against Denver.
  • Vikings quarterbacks coach Scott Turner, son of ex-offensive coordinator Norv Turner, told Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press on Friday that his father’s Nov. 2 resignation came as a surprise. “I knew that he was dealing with some issues, or whatever,” he said. “I thought that it was a possibility. I didn’t ever think he was actually going to do it, and then he told me about one minute before he told Mike Zimmer.” Scott Turner added that he’s unsure if his father will coach again. Norv Turner has been an NFL coach in every season since 1985, including head coaching stints with the Redskins, Raiders and Chargers.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

Vikings To Stick With Kicker Blair Walsh

The Vikings worked out multiple kickers today, but they won’t be signing any of them at this time. Minnesota is planning to stick with Blair Walsh, a league source tells Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Blair Walsh (vertical)

In last year’s Wild Card round, Walsh missed a chip shot field goal at the end of the game and ended the Vikings’ season. Before that, he was 30-for-31 on field goal attempts inside of 30 yards for his career. Since then, Walsh’s struggles have continued.

Most recently, Walsh missed an extra point attempt and had a field goal blocked as the Vikings lost to the Lions 22-16. This season, Walsh is just 12-16 on field goal attempts, giving him a completion percentage that puts him in the bottom third of the NFL.

Kai Forbath and Randy Bullock were among the kickers to audition for Minnesota.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Vikings To Audition Kickers

The Vikings are set to audition a group of kickers on Tuesday, according to Tom Pelissero of USA Today (on Twitter). The workout will include Kai Forbath, tweets Matt Vensel of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Randy Bullock is also likely to be a part of that group, but it’s not clear who else will be participating. In total, there should be four or five kickers in attendance, according to Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN (on Twitter).Randy Bullock (vertical)

On Sunday, Blair Walsh missed an extra point attempt and had a field goal blocked as the Vikings lost to the Lions 22-16. This year, Walsh is just 12-16 on field goal attempts, though it should be noted that three of those misses came from more than 40 yards away.

Bullock was part of a group of kickers that worked out for the Bengals recently, along with Zach Hocker and Forbath. As of right now, the Bengals have not made a change at kicker and are forging ahead with Mike Nugent. Bullock served as the Giants’ kicker in the season opener while Josh Brown served his (initial) one-game suspension.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Vikings Not Yet Planning To Try Out Kickers

Blair Walsh‘s struggles have not prompted Mike Zimmer to seek outside competition to push the embattled kicker, yet, Andrew Krammer of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.

The third-year Vikings coach said it’s not yet time to invite competition for the team’s fifth-year kicker despite his issues since the Vikes’ painful wild-card defeat.

Walsh has a first-team All-Pro honor, in 2012, on his resume and has only missed five field goals in a season once — in 2014. Even last year before the disastrous 27-yard miss that would have beaten the Seahawks, he made 34-of-39 tries. However, the Vikings’ stellar start this season hasn’t included one from their place kicker.

The 26-year-old has missed three field goals (8-for-11) and two extra points, giving him the 28th-best conversion rate in the league. While he made all three of his field goals against the Packers and Panthers in Weeks 2-3, he missed from 46 against the Giants on Monday and from 37 against the Titans in Week 1. Walsh missed four PATs last season.

Minnesota signed Walsh to a four-year, $14MM extension last summer, with the deal keeping him under contract with the franchise until the 2019 season. At $3.25MM per year, Walsh is the league’s fifth-highest-paid kicker in terms of AAV.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Vikings GM Expects To Extend Harrison Smith

Vikings safety Harrison Smith has played four years on his rookie deal, and is under contract for one more year due a fifth-year option. However, general manager Rick Spielman doesn’t expect Smith to be playing in a contract year in 2016, indicating today that he anticipates getting an extension done for the safety sometime in the not-too-distant future, according to Ben Goessling of ESPN.com.Harrison Smith

Referring to Smith as one of the “better safeties” in the NFL, Spielman acknowledged with a chuckle that calling him one of the “best” might increase his price. Pro Football Focus, at least, viewed the 27-year-old as the league’s best safety in 2015, ranking him atop the site’s list of 88 qualified players at the position, despite the fact that he only played 13 games. Among safeties, Smith ranked in PFF’s top 10 in terms of pass coverage, run defense, and pass rush grades.

Smith, who earned his first Pro Bowl nod in 2015, is set to earn a base salary of $5.278MM in 2016. Any new deal figures to pay him an average annual salary worth much more than that. If the Vikings are willing to pay Smith like one of the NFL’s best safeties, that could mean per-year earnings in the $9-10MM range — Jairus Byrd, Devin McCourty, and Earl Thomas are all making salaries in that neighborhood, per Over the Cap. If Smith were to exceed $10MM per year, he’d surpass Thomas as the league’s highest-paid safety.

While a looming extension for Smith was perhaps the most noteworthy nugget that Spielman dropped today, he made a few more comments worth passing along, so let’s dive in…

  • Spielman indicated that 2016 will be a pivotal season for Cordarrelle Patterson to show he can be a wide receiver, which suggests Patterson will have a spot on the Vikings’ roster in the fall, tweets Goessling.
  • The Vikings don’t plan on bringing in any competition for kicker Blair Walsh, whose missed field goal on Wild Card weekend cost Minnesota a chance to beat the Seahawks and advance in the postseason (Twitter link via Goessling).
  • Defensive back Terence Newman doesn’t have a contract for 2016, and would be the NFL’s oldest defensive player if he decides not to retire, but Spielman believes Newman wants to play this year. As Goessling tweets, the GM added that he thinks Newman is a cornerback, not a safety.

North Notes: AP, Walsh, Manziel, Bears

Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is at his best in the shotgun. Vikings running back Adrian Peterson is at his best in the I-formation. Bridgewater is eight years younger than Peterson, meaning the Vikings have to consider his development of the utmost importance. That doesn’t mean they’re going to phase Peterson out of their offense, writes Bob McManaman of AZCentral.com. Peterson had just 10 carries for 31 yards in the Vikings’ 20-3 loss in San Francisco on Monday, but offensive coordinator Norv Turner doesn’t expect that lack of usage to become a trend.

“We’re looking at the things we have to do and the things that give us a chance to beat Detroit,” said Turner. “Games come up different and we all know Adrian is a big part of what we do and we want him to be able to have an impact.”

The Vikings’ matchup against the NFC North rival Lions is one of Week 2’s biggest, considering both playoff hopefuls are looking to avoid 0-2 starts. It’ll be interesting to see if Peterson rebounds and tears through the Lions’ defense – something he’s done throughout his career. The 30-year-old has 1,258 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns in 12 games against Detroit.

Here’s more on the Vikings and a couple other North-based clubs:

  • The Vikings elected in the offseason to let Peterson’s former lead blocker, fullback Jerome Felton, depart in free agency. Felton signed in Buffalo for $3.6MM in guarantees, and the Vikings gave kicker Blair Walsh slightly more ($3.7MM guaranteed). Both decisions could prove to haunt the team, opines Jim Souhan of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Walsh’s accuracy has dropped precipitously every year of his career, from 92.1 percent to 86.7 to 74.3 last year, and he missed one of his two kicks Monday.
  • With Johnny Manziel set to make his third career start, Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon-Journal checked off what the second-year man will need to do against Tennessee in order to show the Browns he’s ready for a bigger role. Manziel’s tenure in the pros has been disastrous thus far, so a solid Sunday showing would obviously be a welcome change for him and the Browns.
  • The Bears had the second-most turnovers during the preseason, but most of the plays were made by defenders who are no longer filling prominent roles now that the regular season has begun. That’s a problem, writes the Chicago Sun-Times’ Adam Jahns, who wonders where the Bears’ defensive playmakers are. They have several well-paid defenders and former high-round draft picks, but they were quiet during the exhibition season and in the team’s Week 1 loss to Green Bay. Head coach John Fox is hoping for better things against Arizona in Week 2. “You get 16 opportunities, and we’re into our second one,’’ Fox said. ‘‘I look for improvement.’’