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Examining A Free Agent Signing

If you would’ve told me in February that the Vikings would wait four days before making their first free agent signing, I would not have been too surprised.

If you would have told me that the first signing would have been a kick, I would have last very loudly.

Regardless, the Vikings first free agent signing was indeed kicker Rhys Lloyd, a kickoff specialist that played college as a Golden Gopher after growing up in Dover, England.  Lloyd’s family moved to Apple Valley, Minnesota in his younger years and that is where he attended high school.

I originally thought that you, the fans, would not be real interested to hear about the Vikings second kicker, and thought my analysis of “this is good” would suffice.  Alas, I read your comments and see that this guy has peaked your interest a bit.

So, I re-watched my favorite episode of Alias to dust up on my investigative skills (and, you know, watch Jennifer Garner) and started looking into it.  What I have discovered is earth shattering… okay, maybe not.  But it is interesting… maybe.

The former Raven and Panther has kicked off 171 times in his NFL career.  He has averaged 67 yards per kickoff and 53 of those kicks went for touchbacks.  His touchback percentage is 31%.

Now, let’s compare that to Ryan Longwell, the Vikings current kicker.  Longwell 1,075 times in his career with 66 of those being touchbacks.  That is touchback percentage of 6%.  His average kickoff has gone for 61.6 yards.

So, you can see where the Vikings are willing to spend a roster spot on this guy.  Longwell has been a great field goal kicker (92.9% last season), and is not expected to lose that job. 

However, the stats show that Longwell is only going to force a touchback 6 times if the Vikings kickoff 100 times next season.  Under the same assumptions, Lloyd will force 31 touchbacks.  This will provide dangerous return men on the schedule such as Felix Jones, Reggie Bush, DeSean Jackson, and Ted Ginn Jr. less chances to burn a coverage unit that is all too familiar with break downs.

A note that has perhaps been overlooked, however, is the difference in the average length of his kickoffs.  Lloyd’s kickoffs will be roughly six yards longer than Longwell’s are.  This means there is added time for the ball to cover that six yards and then the return man to cover that extra six yards, as well.  Thus, a there will be a few extra seconds for the coverage unit to get downfield and make close in on the ball carrier. 

The combination of more touchbacks and longer kicks should help make the Vikings coverage unit perform much better in 2010 against a schedule that will feature perhaps more elite returners than any other team’s schedule.

When you add to the discussion the fact that Lloyd has been a serviceable punter (with the Gophers) and has shown some promise when it comes to field goal kicking (hit a 55 yarder in the preseason of 2007), this two-year deal is a no-brainer.

The Vikings will see Ryan Longwell’s contract expire after this contract, and considering he is getting a little long on the tooth, this could be considered an audition of sorts for Lloyd.  The risk is that the team will devote a roster spot to a guy that is more of a luxury than a need.  The reward is that the kickoff coverage should be much more solid and the Vikings may be able to do some advanced in-house scouting on a potential replacement for Longwell in 2011.

So, in other words… “This is good.”

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4 Responses to “Examining A Free Agent Signing”

  1. Lost Viking says:

    Why does any team need a back up centre as well as a longsnapper.

    Lose Loeffler

  2. krugjr says:

    a roster spot for a kick-off specialist…..

    Vikes, what took you so long?????

    GO VIKES!!!!!

  3. krugjr says:

    Vikes, what took you so long?????

    GO VIKES!!!!!

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