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Vikings say new kicker Bailey was a target last year

Dallas Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey (5) misses on a field goal near the end of a game against the Seattle Seahawks at AT&T Stadium Dec. 24, 2017. Erich Schlegel / USA TODAY Sports

EAGAN, Minn.—The Minnesota Vikings felt they had to upgrade their place-kicking before the season started. They didn't think they'd have to do it again after two games.

The Vikings signed Dan Bailey to be their placekicker on Tuesday, and if he had been available last spring, they would have done it earlier, special teams coordinator Mike Priefer said.

"Dan Bailey would have been the type of guy to upgrade that spot this offseason," Priefer said before practice Thursday at TCO Performance Center. "He wasn't available. We looked at some other guys. Some other guys signed for big money other places."

So, Priefer said, the Vikings set their sights on the best rookie they could find in the draft. That was Daniel Carlson, for whom they traded into the fifth round. Carlson made 80.7 percent of his field goal attempts, and all 198 point-after tries, at Auburn and beat incumbent Kai Forbath in training camp.

The rest is bitter history. Carlson's three misses, two in overtime, last Sunday were the difference between a win and a 29-29 tie in Green Bay. Bailey, 30, hit 88.2 percent of his field goal attempts in seven seasons in Dallas — second-best in NFL history — before being waived before the regular season started.

"In the NFL, as you know, you're always looking to get better," Priefer said. "Kai had a good, solid year for us, but sometimes he kicked it too low. He missed too many PATs. He was not as strong on kickoffs."

Carlson made all three of his PAT tries for the Vikings before pushing his three field goal attempts wide right on Sunday. Two of those kicks would have completed an epic comeback victory, the last a 35-yard attempt with four seconds left.

"To miss all three right, that was the tough part for me," Priefer said. "In that situation there, you've got to at least correct the last one. And it was 35 yards right down the middle."

Carlson wasn't the only problem with special teams on Sunday. The Packers took an early 7-0 lead when a blocked Vikings punt turned into a touchdown. An extra rusher on the right side created a numbers mismatch and an inside defender split the line to block the kick with relative ease.

"It's a look we (practiced) all week," Priefer said. "In fact, we did it prior to both (Packers) games last year because that's one of the looks they gave us. They executed, we didn't — that's what it boiled down to. We didn't do a good enough job getting our depth, and that's going to be corrected."

Priefer believes the kicking issue will be corrected, as well. Bailey worked extensively with long snapper Kevin McDermott and holder Matt Wile on Wednesday, and was scheduled to do it again on Thursday. The Vikings are host to the Buffalo Bills at TCF Bank Stadium on Sunday.

"He'll kick off with the team today, kick field goals with the team today, and then we'll be ready for Sunday," Priefer said.

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