The Minnesota Vikings signed kicker Greg Joseph on Tuesday, a potential corrective measure to remedy the team’s 2020 kicking maladies.
Field-goal and extra-point kicking have been a stain on nearly the totality of the Mike Zimmer era. Zimmer’s Vikings always pretend to have the longstanding kicking troubles fixed – for a brief period – before the pain returns.
This state of affairs for Zimmer began in the 2015 playoffs when kicker Blair Walsh missed a chip-shot field that should have propelled the team to the Divisional Round of the NFC Playoffs. Had history played out the same thereafter, Zimmer would have been accountable for three trips to the Divisional Round of the playoffs. Regrettably, Walsh disallowed it from happening.
Since that January 2016 day, Minnesota kickers have been wickedly inconsistent. Walsh gave it another whirl in 2016, resulting in a thud. He was jettisoned that season in favor of Kai Forbath – a player that performed marvelously in the 2017 NFC Divisional Playoff game versus the New Orleans Saints.
Forbath’s tenure was short-lived, though. The Vikings severed ties with him because of his extra-point follies. He missed eight such kicks in 23 games. Next, general manager Rick Spielman gave a rookie, Daniel Carlson, an audition. In Week 2 of 2018, he cost the Vikings a spot in the postseason. The Vikings finished one win out of the 2018 playoffs, and Carlson’s missed kicks can be aptly fingered for it.
Dan Bailey – the current kicker – was immediately signed and produced with some consistency. Until he didn’t. During 2020, Bailey smacked the proverbial “Vikings kicker” wall and triggered a loss against the eventual Super Bowl champion Buccaneers. Had Bailey connected on his kicks, the Vikings likely would have – you guessed it – reached the playoffs in 2020. All the 2020 Vikings needed was one more win to hop into the expanded NFL playoffs.
So, it seems Bailey is on a short leash. The acquisition of Joseph is either direct competition or the replacement of Bailey.
Greg Joseph is a 27-year-old kicker from South Africa. He was educated at Florida Atlantic University and spent time in the NFL and XFL.
Recently, Joseph was the aforementioned Buccaneers emergency kicker on Tampa Bay’s practice squad. Just two days after his Super Bowl celebration, he took a phone call that would send him 1,600 miles north to the Twin Cities.
His last meaningful football games occurred with the Tennessee Titans in 2019. He was the team’s designated postseason kicker – and he was perfect. He hit nine extra points on nine attempts (which sounds glorious to Vikings fans). Joseph was also successful on a field goal during the Titans three-game playoff run two seasons ago.
Joseph spent time with the Cleveland Browns before joining the Titans. All told for his career, he has an 85% success rate with field goals and 90% on extra points. Neither of those marks is Justin Tucker-like, but the percentages are not putrid – especially for field goals. His field-goal accuracy is closely aligned with that of Dan Bailey’s career numbers (albeit a substantially smaller sample size for Joseph).
The Vikings evidently have some sort of plan for the South African as evidenced by the organization nominating him with their first offseason player acquisition.
Dan Bailey was the sure-fire starter heading in 2020. The guy nailed 27 out of 29 field goals in 2019 and “only” missed four extra points. You know that Vikings extra-point kicking is strange when excitement is stirred from four missed field goals.
For now, Bailey’s employment is in serious jeopardy. His salary hereafter of $1.9 million fully guarantees in about five weeks. At 68% field-goal kicking in 2020, Bailey orchestrated the worst season of his career – by far. His 2020 “yips” may be a temporary thing, but the Vikings have zero tolerance for kicking ineptitude because the tendency has plagued the franchise for more than a half-decade.
What’s worse – all that was necessary from Bailey in 2020 was decent output. Minnesota had colossal defensive deficiencies and other special teams problems. The offense propped up the roster to seven wins while desperately requesting a little semblance of prosperity from the defense and special teams. No such luck.
Therefore, the scars are fresh, and the Joseph signing feels remedial more so than exploratory.
Adding Joseph to the offseason mix is probably a signal that the team is done with Bailey. That is not ironclad and only Spielman and Zimmer know for sure. It could, in theory, be akin to the process of maintaining Chase McLaughlin’s presence on the practice squad as the Vikings did in 2020.
But it’s a safer bet than Bailey is on borrowed time. Further clues will drop on or before that March 18-ish date when his money implants in the salary cap.