In the wake of the 2013 NFL Draft, it isn't every NFL team that needs to discuss their team's punting situation.
Of course, it isn't every NFL team that has Chris Kluwe currently handling their punting duties, either.
Yes, when the Minnesota Vikings selected UCLA's Jeff Locke in the fifth round of the draft last Saturday, it made it pretty obvious that Kluwe's days were numbered as a member of the Minnesota Vikings. There's been talk of Kluwe being given the chance to "compete" for the job and what have you, but let's be serious. Teams in the National Football League don't select punters in the fifth round of the draft. . .or any round, quite frankly. . .with the intention of cutting them during camp.
Frankly, I'd be surprised if Kluwe isn't released by the team as early as Monday. After all, when the Vikings drafted kicker Blair Walsh in 2012, incumbent kicker Ryan Longwell's tenure with the team ended after the team's first rookie mini-camp. At that point, the team determined that Walsh could handle the job, and they did Longwell the service of letting him go sooner rather than later. The Vikings are holding their first rookie mini-camp this weekend at Winter Park. I wouldn't be surprised to see the same thing happen this time around, too.
Now, the potential release of Kluwe will, inevitably, lead to speculation as to whether or not he is being released by the Vikings because of his off-field activism, particularly as it relates to the topic of same-sex marriage. In an interview with Tom Pelissero, Kluwe himself appeared to make an allusion to that effect."
Again, I'm not a front-office person, so I don't know if that played into it or not," Kluwe said. "It's one of those things where you hope it wouldn't be a factor, because the NFL is supposed to be about just what you can do on the field.
"You've got guys in the league that have committed crimes. You've got guys that have been arrested. That hasn't seemed to slow anyone down. It'd really be a shame if me speaking out for equality was what got me cut. I think that doesn't say a lot of good things about the nature of football."
Full disclosure here. I like Chris Kluwe. Honestly, I do. I've spoken with him a couple times over the Twitter about gaming and those sorts of things, and he's never been anything but cordial to me. Somewhere in a storage locker in California, I even have a jersey that says "Warcraft" on it. . .with a #4 on it, even, not a #5. (You know, from that one year that we've all tried to purge from our memory banks.) As it relates to the topic of same-sex marriage, I agree with both what Kluwe says and his right to say it. And it would, indeed, be a shame if the main impetus behind Kluwe's release was his outspoken nature.
But I don't think it is.
Kluwe has a cap figure of approximately $1.5 million in 2013. The Vikings could remove that entire hit from their cap by releasing him. As a fifth-round selection, Jeff Locke is looking at a contract that would give him a cap figure of approximately $500,000 a year. So, the Vikings would be saving about a million dollars by making the switch.
The Vikings are also in the midst of a pronounced youth movement. As it stands now, this is the full list of Vikings players that are age 30 or older:
-Defensive end Jared Allen
-Offensive lineman Joe Berger
-Backup quarterback Matt Cassel
-Linebacker Chad Greenway
-Punter Chris Kluwe
-Long snapper Cullen Loeffler
-Defensive end Brian Robison
-Defensive tackle Kevin Williams
Much like they did with Longwell in 2012, if the Vikings feel they can get a younger, cheaper option to do the same (or better) as the incumbent, that's the direction they're going to go. This is not an unprecedented move.
You can color me naive or idealistic or what have you, but I really don't think there's anything nefarious behind the Vikings potentially releasing Chris Kluwe. I think that the team simply feels that they can improve at the position, and they're taking the steps to do that.
Note: People can debate whether Chris Kluwe is potentially going to be released based on his beliefs, in their opinion. That's the main thrust of this particular piece. The topic of same-sex marriage itself, on the other hand, is not what's up for debate here. Don't try to turn the comments section into a debate on same-sex marriage. If you want to debate same-sex marriage, there are lots of places for you to do that. Just not here. Thank you.