Tuesday, March 19, 2013
On Chris Kluwe's future with the Vikings
By Kevin Seifert
PHOENIX -- We spent plenty of time last season discussing the short- and long-term future of Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, who had an inconsistent year on the field and an eventful one off of it. Instead of further speculating on the issue, I had it on my list to inquire with Vikings general manager Rick Spielman during an interview with local reporters here at the NFL owners meeting.
Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com brought up the topic first, asking Spielman if Kluwe would be the Vikings' punter in 2013. Spielman response? He laughed.
Asked if he anticipated bringing legitimate punting competition to training camp, Spielman said: "I don't know. We haven't gotten that far yet in the process. I couldn't tell you."
(The Vikings signed street free agent T.J. Conley, who punted for the New York Jets in 2011, in January.)
Kluwe has been the Vikings' punter for eight seasons and has the highest gross average (44.4) in team history. But there is some important precedent and a few important facts to keep in mind here.
First, the Vikings unceremoniously parted ways with veteran place-kicker Ryan Longwell in 2012, a few days after drafting replacement Blair Walsh. If the Vikings weren't at least considering drafting a punter, or pursuing one of the top undrafted rookies, then Spielman probably would have said as much Tuesday.
Second, Kluwe is entering the final season of the six-year contract extension he signed in October 2007. Because signing bonuses pro-rate only over five years, the Vikings would not have to carry any of Kluwe's $1.45 million cap number if they release him before the start of the regular season.
Again, Spielman didn't say the Vikings want to replace Kluwe this season. But, notably, he also didn't commit to Kluwe as the Vikings' 2013 punter. This one is worth staying tuned for.