Veteran punter Chris Kluwe announced on Twitter that his eight-year run with the Minnesota Vikings has come to an end.
"So long, Minnesota, and thanks for all the fish!," Kluwe wrote. "Thank you to all the fans, my teammates, and the Wilf family for the past 8.5 years. I wouldn't have traded it for anything."
Kluwe had seen the writing on the wall and was expected to be released after the addition of Locke. Last week, Kluwe told ProFootballTalk.com that it was "a shame" that his vocal support for a human rights issue like marriage equality could result in his release considering the number of second chances given to players in the league who have committed felonies.
In recent seasons, Kluwe has used his Twitter page to needle the NFL about player safety issues and the labor negotiations in 2011. Last year, Kluwe publicly supported the Hall of Fame candidacy of punter Ray Guy.
Vikings GM Rick Spielman told Peter King of Sports Illustrated that the off-field issues were not going to be a factor in what the did at the punter position.
"Locke was the top punter in this draft,'' Spielman said. "Some people are trying to play the other angle [the Kluwe-as-distraction angle], but that is totally off-base. That is off the radar. I want Chris, and all of our players, to have freedom of speech. This has nothing to do with Chris' political views."
Though Kluwe posted the highest net punting average (39.7 yards) of his career, his release on Monday should not come as a surprise. Kluwe was toward the bottom of the league in terms of placing punts inside the opponents' 20-yard line and he was one of only three regular punters in the NFL last regular season to not have at least one punt of 60 yards.
Minnesota used a fifth-round pick (No. 155 overall) in the 2013 NFL draft on UCLA punter Jeff Locke, who will be a far cheaper option at the position. Locke's four-year contract will include a signing bonus of $184,192, which along with a first-year base salary of $405,000, will cost the Vikings $589,192 in cash and $451,048 in salary cap dollars in 2013. Kluwe had been scheduled to earn $1.45 million in both cash and cap dollars 2013, the final season of a contract he signed with the Vikings midway through the 2007 season. By going with the rookie over Kluwe, the Vikings will save over $860,000 in cash and $998,952 in cap space.