After witnessing a disastrous five-game stretch from Dan Bailey to close out the 2020 season, the Vikings have signed kicker Greg Joseph, according to his agent Brent Tessler.
This signing was prompted by Bailey falling apart over the final month of the regular season. He missed three kicks in Week 13 against the Jaguars, went 0-for-4 the following week in Tampa Bay, and added three more misses in Weeks 16 and 17. Statistically, Bailey was the worst kicker in the NFL, finishing dead last in extra point percentage and second-to-last in field goal percentage. He apparently was dealing with a back injury at times, but Bailey's misses were hugely damaging for the Vikings.
Now Minnesota has a decision to make: cut Bailey and make Joseph the favorite for the job or go into training camp with both players and let them battle it out. If salaries weren't a factor, the obvious answer would be to do the latter. But Bailey has a $2.7 million base salary in 2021, $1.8 million of which becomes fully guaranteed on March 19. Bailey's full 2021 cap hit of $3.8 million is the 11th-highest among all kickers, and it seems unlikely that the Vikings would want to commit that much to a player who struggled mightily at the end of last season.
The most likely outcome might be that the Vikings keep both players, but with a modified contract for Bailey. The two sides could work out a re-negotiated deal that allows the veteran to stick around and attempt to prove himself in camp.
But it's entirely possible that Joseph, not Bailey, will be the Vikings' kicker in 2021. Minnesota guaranteed a portion of Joseph's base salary upon signing him, according to Ian Rapaport.
Joseph, 26, was born in South Africa and moved to Florida when he was seven years old. He spent four years kicking for Florida Atlantic, making 70 percent of his field goals and 97 percent of his extra points. After being scooped up by the Dolphins as an undrafted free agent in 2018, he latched on with the Browns and became their kicker for the final 14 games of the season. Joseph made 17 of 20 field goals that season, including all 11 of his attempts from fewer than 40 yards. However, he did miss four extra points. In 2019, he lost a kicking competition in training camp to rookie Austin Seibert.
Joseph spent time on the Panthers' practice squad in 2019 before being signed by the Titans late in the year. He was Tennessee's kicker for the final two games of the regular season and three playoff games, making all 18 of his extra point attempts and converting his lone field goal attempt, a 30-yarder in the AFC title game. During the 2020 season, Joseph served as the Buccaneers' backup kicker, being protected on their practice squad every week.
It's going to be interesting to see what the Vikings do with Bailey now that they've added a capable replacement option. He was one of the league's most accurate kickers ever during his first five years with the Cowboys, but outside of a strong 2019 season, has struggled to find that same consistency since then.
"Dan’s a true professional," said new Vikings special teams coordinator Ryan Ficken on Tuesday. "I rely on him and a lot of things he’s done. His resume speaks for itself. I think Dan has got the opportunity — he’s here on this team — I think he’s got the opportunity to have great success here in the future and I’m looking forward to that opportunity, but it’s somewhat difficult at times to go ahead and work through some of those challenges. But he’s such a pro’s pro in the way he approaches this game that there’s no one else you’d rather have a team to go through this battle with."
Ficken went on to stress the importance of competition and production. Despite all of the respect Bailey has in the Vikings' organization, the reality is that he wasn't nearly good enough last season. By signing Joseph, the Vikings seem likely to either cut Bailey or bring him back on a less-expensive contract for a good old-fashioned kicker battle.
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