Vikings sign kicker Blair Walsh to contract extension

MANKATO, Minn. (AP) The Minnesota Vikings signed kicker Blair Walsh on Sunday to a four-year contract extension with $5.25 million guaranteed and a maximum value of $14 million.

Walsh, who will make $660,000 this season on the final year of his rookie deal, was given quite the reward on the first day of training camp for the team.

”It’s security. It means you’re going to be here longer under contract, but it still means you’ve got to go out there and perform,” Walsh said. ”That’s what your job’s based on, on the field. I know that. They know that. So I’m just going to continue to do what I’ve done my entire career, and that’s perform.”

Walsh was a sixth-round draft pick in 2012 out of Georgia to replace veteran Ryan Longwell. He promptly set an NFL record by making 12 consecutive field goals from 50-plus yards to start his career, 10 of which came in that stellar first season when he made the Pro Bowl. Since then, Walsh’s productivity has fallen off, with a 74.3 percent field goal rate in 2014 that ranked 31st in the league. He made 92.1 percent in 2012 (ranking fourth among kickers with a qualifying amount of attempts) and 86.7 percent in 2013 (19th).

The Vikings, though, clearly felt confident enough in his ability to keep him from becoming a free agent next year with a deal that, when it kicks in, will easily put him in the top 10 in the NFL among kickers, if not the top five.

”Blair has been a vital part of our special teams success since we drafted him, and we felt it was very important to secure his future with our organization,” general manager Rick Spielman said in a statement distributed by the team. ”His consistency on kickoffs and on long range field goals can help change the game for our team, and we’re excited for his future here in Minnesota. This extension stays true to our philosophy of drafting young talent, developing them in our system and rewarding their success.”

Walsh landed touchbacks on 64 percent of his kickoffs last season, ranking ninth in the league.

”It’s nice to have an extension, but at the same time it makes you hungry to prove everyone right and continue to perform like you have been performing, and that’s the way I approach things,” Walsh said. ”I’m never satisfied with anything. I want to continue to get better and to do better, and I think I’m going to continue to do that this camp.”

One more year outside at the University of Minnesota, and Walsh will get to go back to a controlled climate when the Vikings move into their new stadium in 2016.

”You like to see guys like that get rewarded. He’s made some great big kicks for our team, and he’s obviously going to be making a lot of them in the future,” linebacker Chad Greenway said.

AP NFL websites: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL