The Minnesota Vikings have officially released punter Chris Kluwe. The move doesn’t come as a surprise and was somewhat expected when the Vikings used their 5th-round draft pick to select punter Jeff Locke out of the UCLA. Kluwe, also a UCLA alumni, had been with the Vikings since 2005.
In recent years Kluwe has become more vocal off the field, particularly when it comes to marriage equality. His constant twitter rants and publicity stunts seem to be a distraction to both him and the franchise. Spielman has said publicly that any move has ‘nothing to do with Kluwe off the field.’
Kluwe had some terrible punts this season including a 20-yard punt against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers resulting in a collection of boos at Mall of America Field. Kluwe, 31, had only 18 of 72 punts (25%) land inside the 20 yard line, his lowest percentage since his rookie year. To make matter worse, Kluwe yielded only two touchbacks – 2.8% of his total punts – a stat that has declined in each of the past four seasons.
Kluwe, on the other hand, believes he is still the best punter in Vikings history.
“That’s the nature of the NFL,” he told the Star Tribune. “I have no idea what will happen. I’ve put my product out on the field. Statistically, I’m the best punter the Vikings have ever had. So we’ll see what happens.”
Kluwe was supposed to receive $1.4 million during the 2013 season, making him one of the top ten paid punters. The move frees the Vikings of around $1.45 million, an estimated $500,000 will then be used to sign rookie punter Jeff Locke, Kluwe’s replacement.
Jeff Locke, 23, was the first punter drafted in the 2013 NFL draft which came as a surprise as most experts didn’t rank Locke the top punter in the draft. In Locke’s time at UCLA he averaged 44.0 yards per punt, and in his senior year he totaled 22 punts inside the 20 yard line. One of the reasons the Vikings drafted Locke above any other punter was due to him being a left-footed punter. A left-footed punter creates a different spin on the ball, making it more difficult to catch for return specialists.
This isn’t the first time that Vikings general manger Rick Spielman has made a sudden but major change regarding special teams. Last season the Vikings ousted Ryan Longwell after drafting Blair Walsh. Walsh ended with a historic season, breaking the record for the most field goals of 50+ yards in a single season.
So long, Minnesota, and thanks for all the fish!
— Chris Kluwe (@ChrisWarcraft) May 6, 2013