New proposed kickoff rule could save Vikings RB from getting cut

Kene Nwangwu
Kene Nwangwu / Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota Vikings running back Kene Nwangwu is in danger of being released this offseason but could be saved if a proposed kickoff rule passes.

Kickoff returns were at an all-time low during the 2023 NFL season and the league is looking to change that. Making returns a more regular part of games would help the purple and gold since they have a solid weapon in that phase of the game.

In 2021 and 2022, running back Kene Nwangwu handled 53 kickoff returns for the Vikings and had excellent results. He gained 1499 yards in those two seasons and took the return to the house on three occasions.

Last season, Nwangwu only had the opportunity to return 15 kickoffs in nine games and failed to score a touchdown despite gaining 380 yards. Offensively, he only carried the ball five times for 13 yards and did not record a reception. Those statistics show he did not have much value in that role for Minnesota.

How could the proposed rule help the Minnesota Vikings and Kene Nwangwu?

The Minnesota Vikings went out in free agency and signed former Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones to replace Alexander Mattison, who was released this offseason. Jones joins Ty Chandler, Myles Gaskin, and DeWayne McBride as well as Kene Nwangwu in the locker room to make up the current crop of running backs.

If not for his value as a kick return specialist, there is a solid chance Minnesota could part ways with Nwangwu. However, if a proposed rule is passed, the odds for him to stay on the Vikings roster for 2024 will skyrocket.

The proposed rule would create an area between the 20-yard line and the endzone where kickoffs must be returned. If the kickoff lands short of that zone, the kicking team will be penalized and the receiving team will get the ball at the 40-yard line. If the kick lands past that zone, the returning team can decide to return it or down it to get the ball at the 35-yard line. A kick that lands out of bounds would put the returning team at the 40-yard line. Fair catches will no longer be allowed.

Kickers would be aiming for a spot in the red zone to ensure a return since that would likely be stopped before reaching the 35 or 40-yard line. This should give kick returns significantly more opportunities for a return rather than the current system of booming them through the end zone.

Voting on the proposed rule will happen at the NFL Owners' meeting in Orlando sometime between March 24 and 27. If passed, the new rule will resemble what the XFL had previously done but the vote will require a three-quarters vote of the owners to pass.

You can bet the Minnesota Vikings and Kene Nwangwu in particular will be keeping a close eye on this proposed rule change.