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|Daniel Carlson's career-best field goal at Auburn was 56 yards. His confidence range indoors reaches 65. During pre-draft training in the high altitude of his home state Colorado Kirk Gibson Jersey , he said, even a 75-yard kick was makeable. The Minnesota Vikings were so enamored with that strong leg they used a fifth-round pick on the 6-foot-5, 213-pound Carlson, a bold enough move to suggest he'll be the place kicker this season and not incumbent Kai Forbath.
No matter how big of a boom Carlson delivers on the ball, though, what matters the most is how accurate he can be from those less-impressive and more-critical distances. The shorter kicks that the Vikings have seen missed too many times over the past five years.
"I'm a 6-foot-5 kicker, which is pretty rare. That does help having those long levers to hopefully get a couple touchbacks and some longer kicks here and there," Carlson said. "But at the end of the day it's the kicks inside of 50 that really are going to make or break a season or make or break you."
The Vikings re-signed Forbath in March. In 25 games since he replaced the struggling Blair Walsh, Forbath has missed eight extra points. He also pulled a couple of 39-yard field goals wide in 2017. Though he came through down the stretch with several important makes, including three field goals in the playoff game win over New Orleans, Forbath clearly didn't gain the full trust of the coaching staff and front office.
"The whole objective right now at this point is to create the most competitive 90-man roster that you can, regardless of position," general manager Rick Spielman said last weekend after making Carlson the 167th overall selection.
When the Vikings drafted Walsh in the sixth round in 2012, they released reliable incumbent Ryan Longwell the day after the rookie minicamp was complete. The same scenario played out in 2013 with punter Jeff Locke, a fifth-round pick Josh Jackson Jersey , and his outspoken predecessor, Chris Kluwe. For now, the Vikings have said they'll keep the competition open. Still, a fifth-rounder is a high price for a specialist.
"Kai's done really good this spring," coach Mike Zimmer said. "So we're just going to let them go out there and kick."
Carlson made all 198 extra points he attempted in college, albeit from 20 yards and not 33 yards, to set an SEC record. He went 92 for 114 on field goals. Factor in a strong performance at the Senior Bowl in January, and the Vikings were interested. They sent special teams coordinator Mike Priefer to Auburn for one of five private workouts Carlson conducted after the scouting combine, and Carlson and Priefer immediately hit it off.
Carlson was one of the eight draftees among 66 players assembled by the Vikings for workouts this weekend, including 31 players invited on a tryout basis.
The 17 college free agents signed earlier this week included cornerback Holton Hill from Texas and linebacker Hercules Mata'afa of Washington State, considered two of the top undrafted players. Among the unsigned prospects aiming to follow the lead of Marcus Sherels in 2010 and Adam Thielen in 2013, as tryout players who earned a contract after the rookie minicamp and eventually made the team, are safety Mackenro Alexander of Iowa State, the twin brother of Vikings cornerback Mackensie Alexander; Northern Illinois wide receiver Chad Beebe, the son of former Buffalo Bills standout Don Beebe; and quarterback Matt Linehan from Idaho Isaiah Oliver Jersey Falcons , the son of former Vikings and current Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Scott Linehan.
None of these players, even first-round cornerback Mike Hughes, carry the potential to impact the Vikings in 2018 as much as Carlson.
"I knew what I was coming into, and I'm excited to get to work," said Carlson, a three-time Lou Groza Award finalist and the SEC special teams player of the year for the last two seasons. "Hopefully, I'll prove to these coaches and the rest of this team that I deserve to be here."
Make those high-pressure kicks, and they'll quickly develop that respect.
"You kind of figure it out with a little maturity and handling those big moments," Carlson said, "but I think as a kicker that's what we're supposed to live for."
LeBron James flew back to Los Angeles from a family vacation in the Caribbean. He could be there longer than usual. Hours before NBA free agency opened with the three-time champion as its most coveted prize, James returned Saturday to Southern California, where he has two homes and a film production company. The Lakers are hoping they can persuade him to sign with them and return them to glory.
Los Angeles is among the teams in the mix to land James after his agent told the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday that he will not exercise his $35.6 million contract option for next season. At 12:01 a.m. Sunday, James will be an unrestricted free agent, and agent Rich Paul is expected to contact several teams with the Lakers and Cavs atop his list.
By declining his option, James positioned himself to be able to choose where he’ll play next Youth Phillip Gaines Jersey , and Cleveland, just up the road from his home near Akron, remains a strong possibility. But there are at least three other teams – and maybe an outsider or two – with legitimate shots at landing James, who made it clear following this year’s NBA Finals that he’s still driven to win championships.
While every team dreams of being ruled by King James, only a few have a legit chance of signing him.
Here are the cases – for and against – the leading contenders:
WHY: Home; money.
James came back four years ago to a hero’s welcome, something that seemed unimaginable when he left in disgrace four years earlier for Miami. But he vowed to do everything he could to deliver a title to championship-starved Cleveland. He delivered in 2016, erasing past sins and raising James to a worshipped level few athletes in any sport have experienced. His family is comfortable here and it’s where he has complete control.
The Cavs can also offer him the most lucrative package, a five-year, $209 million contract.
WHY NOT: Flawed roster; blemished relationship with owner Dan Gilbert.
Last summer’s stunning trade of guard Kyrie Irving left the Cavs without a quality running mate for James, who was forced to carry a heavier offensive load throughout the regular season and playoffs. Cleveland has deep salary-cap issues – partially caused by James’ failure to commit long-term – and the Cavs currently lack enough talent to unseat the champion Golden State Warriors.
Gilbert and James mended some fences for his return in 2014, but they remain distant other than a shared commitment to winning. Gilbert has gone above and beyond financial barriers to appease James, but the well could be running dry.
LOS ANGELES LAKERS
WHY: Salary-cap space; business interests; iconic franchise.
With some savvy moves, the Lakers are poised to potentially add two superstars – James and Paul George and maybe Kawhi Leonard – to a team featuring up-and-coming talents like Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball, who is reportedly dealing with a knee injury. James loves the Hollywood lights Denzel Ward Jersey Elite , and with two homes in the Los Angeles area as well as a film production company, he has already established some roots in the land of movie stars and slow-moving traffic. The appeal of playing for one of the league’s most storied teams is another allure.
WHY NOT: Youth; the Western Conference.
There’s little doubt James has some quality years ahead of him. But does he have enough time to let a group of unproven players with no postseason experience develop into a title contender? And if he jumps conferences for the first time in his career, the path to the Finals is far more treacherous.
WHY: Rising team; staying in the East.
In Sixers guard Ben Simmons, James sees a younger version of himself and he’d relish the chance to play alongside the 21-year-old while mentoring him. The Sixers also have center Joel Embiid, 24, projected to become the game’s next dominant big men. Philadelphia would instantly vault from conference contender to favorite with James, who could make a strong run at his ninth straight Finals in Year One.
WHY NOT: Too young; front-office dysfunction.
Much like the Lakers, the Sixers lack postseason experience and James would be surrounded by players who have barely tasted the postseason. General manager Bryan Colangelo’s resignation following an investigation into whether he created Twitter accounts to criticize his own players, has given the impression that the team isn’t operating in concert and then would turn off James quickly.
Houston: While the Rockets once seemed a good fit, James declining his option all but eliminated the chances of him joining up with close friend Chris Paul and MVP James Harden. If James had opted in with the Cavs, they could have worked out a sign-and-trade with Houston.
San Antonio: James reveres Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, but living in Texas doesn’t seem appealing to the star’s family and the Spurs are still trying to figure out what to do with Leonard, who can become a free agent after next season.