EAGAN, Minn -- When the Minnesota Vikings decided to draft a kicker in the fifth round of this year's draft, it likely spelled the end for incumbent Kai Forbath, who was coming off an inconsistent 2017 season mainly because he missed five extra-point attempts and had the league's lowest conversion rate for PATs of anyone with at least 10 attempts.
Daniel Carlson is 6-foot-5 and was the first kicker selected in the draft after three straight seasons as a finalist for the Lou Groza award given to the top kicker in college football.
The competition continued into the preseason with both kickers having steady performances. After Forbath missed a 41-yard, field-goal attempt in the second preseason game, the veteran didn't get another chance at a kick for Minnesota.
The Vikings released Forbath on Monday and gave Carlson the job he was expected to get all along.
"We just figured it was getting close to the last couple preseason games," Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer said. "Kai did a great job while he was here. He’s a great kid. We just decided to go with Daniel.”
Vikings special teams coordinator Mike Priefer said the competition went on longer than he expected "because Kai kicked so well."
Priefer added: "Kai really had a great spring, I thought Daniel out kicked him by a little bit in the spring, it was close. Then he came into camp and I think he made a couple more field goals than Daniel did. I think they both kicked 34-35 field goals and I think Kai kicked a couple more. I could see Daniel continually getting better every day.
"The kickoffs played a big part of that as well. So, the combination of that and being a young, hopefully up and coming kicker that can kick in this league for a long time, one game at a time, obviously, or one practice at a time. At the end of the day, there’s a reason why he’s here. He performed well and well enough to beat out Kai."
Priefer said he wasn't sure if Forbath's miss was the final factor in the decision to cut the veteran now.
"I don’t know if we wouldn’t have made the move anyway," Priefer said. "I don’t know if it helped make the decision. We know who Kai is and we know who Daniel is at this point. I think releasing Kai now does Kai a little bit of a favor. Because now, the teams that are really struggling, I don’t know who they are because I don’t study that right now, but it gives him an opportunity to try to at least get a workout and maybe latch onto a team instead of getting cut two weeks from now or after the last preseason game and now he’s competing against 10 or 11 kickers that have been cut at the same time.
"I think (general manager Rick Spielman) did Kai a favor by releasing him yesterday, in my opinion."
The Vikings concern with Carlson is consistency. But the young kicker had one advantage over Forbath in his leg strength.
"Big-time leg, he’s got a great demeanor," Priefer said. "Kicking in the SEC, he kicked in front of 90,000 or 100,000 fans every week. So, I don’t think kicking in front of big crowds is going to be a bother for him. It’s not going to both him. He’s a very composed young man. He can make any field-goal kick you need him to make distance wise, he’s just got to continue to work on his consistency.
"He’s very much a weapon on the kickoff team. Hopefully he can put it out of the endzone when we need him to, especially indoors, outdoors as well. Indoors he can do, what I call a bag of tricks, the tools in his toolbox so to speak. Where we can keep people off balance with these new rules and kick it high and short like we did the other day. Put pressure on the kickoff return team and give our defense great field position or even get the ball back for that matter. He can do all those things. He’s very talented."
INJURIES TAKE A TOLL
The preseason game was a tough one for Minnesota's injury situation. Several players left the game with injuries that could linger.
The Vikings placed rookie defensive end Ade Aruna on injured reserve.
Minnesota waived offensive tackle Cedrick Lang, tight end Josiah Price and fullback Johnny Stanton with injury designations.