Vikings couldn't let Ryan Longwell leave

In March, we wondered whether the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears were really prepared to part ways with a pair of aging but reliable specialists who appear to have several years remaining in their careers. We've now gotten our answer.

The Bears did indeed inform punter Brad Maynard that he won't return in 2011. And on Wednesday, the Vikings agreed to terms with place-kicker Ryan Longwell on what ESPN's Adam Schefter reported is a four-year contract extension worth $12 million, including $3.5 million guaranteed.

The timing of the deal made sense; earlier in the day, the Green Bay Packers and Carolina Panthers helped set the market for placekickers. The Packers agreed with Mason Crosby on a five-year deal that included $3 million guaranteed, while the Panthers will soon sign Olindo Mare to a four-year deal that includes $4 million guaranteed.

What never made sense was why the Vikings might replace a kicker who has converted 43 of 46 attempts over the past two seasons. Longwell will turn 37 next month, but age is of moderate relevance when it comes to place-kickers. The Vikings clearly agreed, even if it took longer than expected for them to show it.