On Monday, May 7, the Minnesota Vikings announced the release of veteran kicker Ryan Longwell.
The move likely came as a surprise to Vikings fans as well as teammates. Minnesota punter Chris Kluwe tweeted, “Sad to see Ryan go, both as a teammate and as a friend. Unfortunately, that’s the business of the NFL; we all get replaced eventually :/”
A 16-year veteran, Longwell spent the past six seasons in purple and gold, making 135-of-157 field goals and missing only five extra-point attempts. Even in his late 30s, his 94.4 field-goal percentage over the 2009 and 2010 seasons was good enough for No. 1 in the NFL. Overall, he tallied 633 points over his six-year stay in Minny.
Prior to his time with the Vikings, the California alum played for the border-rival Green Bay Packers, and Longwell still holds their all-time-leading-scorer title with 1,054 points.
“Ryan has meant a great deal to the Vikings organization both on and off field over the past six seasons,” Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said. “We wish him all the best in the future and thank him for his service to the Minnesota Vikings.”
How is Longwell reacting to his release? Similar to Kluwe, Longwell also utilized Twitter to react to his release, posting a message of gratitude to fans and teammates:
“Just can’t say enough about great teammates I had up in MN. The calls from them and guys around NFL have been overwhelming! I’m blessed!!”
The 37-year-old expressed a positive attitude for future plans, further reflecting his usual good nature and strong Christian faith.
So, fan feelings and emotions aside, was this move a good one on the Vikings’ part? Longwell’s release came less than two weeks after Minnesota drafted Georgia kicker Blair Walsh in Round 6 of the 2012 Draft.
While Walsh certainly boasted a statistically strong, injury-free four years at Georgia and appears well-equipped to serve an NFL team, it seems a bit hasty to cut the veteran Longwell free. Who’s to say the 22-year-old will easily make the transition to the big leagues? Not to say he won’t, but releasing a reliable player like Longwell is not only risky but premature.
After all, the Vikings signed Longwell to a new contract only 10 months ago—a deal suggesting he wouldn’t be leaving after only one season. Drafting Walsh will certainly benefit Minnesota, but it would have been nice to see a little competition ensue between the rookie and the veteran before simply handing the position to a newbie.
Longwell’s release adds him to a list of veterans let go by the Vikings this offseason, including Cedric Griffin, Anthony Herrera and Steve Hutchinson. Spielman’s assembling a talented, young roster—he’s also confidently saying good-bye to some talented older guys.
Will Spielman’s plan work? Will these moves prove healthy for Minnesota’s roster? These questions will be answered in due time—for now, let’s play tribute to a great athlete and class act.
Thank you for your time in Minnesota, Mr. Longwell. As Vikings fans and members of #Skol Nation, we wish you the best.
You will be missed.
Lindsey Young is a graduate of Northwestern College and an avid Minnesota sports fan[atic]. It’s been argued females don’t know much about sports, but she begs to differ. Currently working full time at her alma mater, she continues to edit and write for BleacherReport.com and on her blog Making the Call in pursuit of a career in sports journalism. You can follow her on Twitter @lilshortie2712.