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Air Force draftee Austin Cutting cleared to sign with Vikings, play in the NFL

Marines with Marine Corps Recruiting Station Twin Cities presented the colors at the Minnesota Vikings game against the Washington Red Skins, November 2, 2014. (Sgt. Martin Egnash/U.S. Marine Corps)

Long snapper Austin Cutting, a seventh-round pick by the Vikings in April’s draft out of Air Force, has been cleared to play this season in the NFL, a source told the Pioneer Press on Thursday.

A decision was reached Wednesday, although the Air Force Academy has yet to make an announcement.

Cutting, taken with the No. 250 overall pick, is expected to sign a four-year, $2.59 million contract Monday, which includes a $74,756 signing bonus. He will start training camp Tuesday with other Vikings rookies.

Cutting will compete.with incumbent Kevin McDermott to be the Vikings’ long snapper. McDermott and most other veterans will begin camp next Friday.

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Cutting, like all Air Force Academy gradates, is required to serve a two-year military commitment following graduation. In doubt was whether he would be required to serve it immediately or defer it until after his NFL career.

President Donald Trump announced a policy June 26 calling for cadets and midshipmen attending service academies or earning a commission through ROTC to be able to pursue professional sports careers immediately. He called for it to go into effect in late October.

“As I recently stated, these student-athletes should be able to defer their military service obligations until they have completed their professional sports careers,” Trump wrote. “Such cadets and midshipmen have a short window of time to take advantage of their athletic talents during which playing professional sports is realistically possible.”

While there had been hope the Air Force would let Cutting play in the NFL immediately regardless, the source said Trump’s action expedited matters. Attorneys from the Pentagon last week went to the Air Force Academy in Colorado to discuss Cutting’s situation with academy officials. The source said specifics are still being worked out regarding how his two-year military stint will be handled but that he has the “green light” to play in the NFL in 2019 and beyond.

Cutting will have a 2019 salary-cap number of $513,644. However, he will not affect Minnesota’s cap number since his salary will not be among the top 51 on the team.

According to the NFL Players Association, the Vikings have $4.69 million of cap room, the third lowest among the league’s 32 teams. If Cutting were to beat out McDermott, Minnesota would save $185,000 against the cap. McDermott has a 2019 cap number of $960,000 but the Vikings would incur $200,000 of dead money if he were let go.

Cutting is the only one of Minnesota’s 12 draft picks who has not signed a contract. He participated in spring drills under an injury protection agreement.

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© 2019 the Pioneer Press