As much as Vikings general manager Rick Spielman enjoys trying to find special teams’ aces late in the draft, you have to wonder if he is beginning to realize that using picks on these players might not be a wise decision as long as Mike Zimmer is the team’s coach.
If Spielman didn’t get the hint when Zimmer cut kicker Blair Walsh (a sixth-round pick) in 2016, or kicker Daniel Carlson (a fifth-round pick) only two games into his NFL career in 2018, he might have picked up on the flaw in his strategy when Zimmer jettisoned long-snapper Austin Cutting on Tuesday. (We’re not even including the decision to let 2013 fifth-round punter Jeff Locke walk as a free agent after the 2016 season, or the decision to waive kicker Kaare Vedvik in 2019 only three weeks after acquiring him from Baltimore for a fifth-round draft pick.)
Taken with the Vikings’ fourth and final pick in the seventh round in 2019, and 250th overall, Cutting had been inactive for the past two games after handling the long-snapping duties in all 16 games last season and the first nine games of 2020. Cutting’s poor snap in the Vikings’ 19-13 victory over the Bears on Nov. 16 cost Dan Bailey a shot at an extra-point attempt that would have given Minnesota a seven-point lead.
Zimmer clearly saw that as the final straw, as the Vikings quickly signed free agent Andrew DePaola to their practice squad. DePaola, who hadn’t played in a game since 2018, was promoted from the practice squad to snap in the past two games for the Vikings, as Cutting was inactive. But the Vikings had to make a decision regarding DePaola because the NFL’s COVID-related rules adjustments for 2020 did not allow him to be demoted, promoted and demoted again.
The Vikings also waived linebacker Hardy Nickerson on Tuesday.