After a failed experiment with Steve Hauschka to start the 2009 season, the Ravens cut their losses and took a flyer
on free agent kicker Billy Cundiff. Cundiff had a proven track record with both the Cowboys and Browns, and took over the kicking duties valiantly. Going 12-17 with the Ravens, with two of those misses coming from beyond 50 yards, and arguably having the odds against him with each bad snap from Matt Katula, Cundiff was what the team was missing early in the year. He made the big kicks, and the city rallied around him. Now, with it appearing that he will be the team’s kicker next season, the question has to be raised: Is Billy Cundiff the best man long-term for the Ravens’ kicking job?
The Ravens’ kicking job is high profile. After being used to so many years of Mr. Automatic Matt Stover hitting everything, and winning so many games for the team, the fans demand great performances by the kicker week in and week out. Cundiff has a mostly positive track record. He was solid in Dallas and solid this season. Looking at his stats, however, some may have an argument to disagree. He has a career field goal percentage of 73.6% and is only 67.2% (41 for 61) from 30 to 50 yards out, the range of most field goals he will kick. His 73.6% ranks last among active starting kickers in the NFL. After three years as the Cowboys’ starter, he became a bit of a journeyman, doing kickoffs for Atlanta in 2006, and bouncing from New Orleans to Atlanta to Kansas City to Detroit to Cleveland and eventually to Baltimore. I don’t mean to sound like a downer, but might there be a reason why he was with 6 teams over three years, winning the permanent starting job only once?
I have no complaints about the way Cundiff kicked this season. I’m fine with him returning for next season. But is it too much to ask for a backup plan? Maybe bringing Hauschka back or taking a chance on an undrafted free agent who was a good kicker in college? If Cundiff has a similar performance to start next season as Hauschka did, the reaction will not be pretty from the fans. I’m just wondering if somebody else will be needed to reprise his role this year next year, and whether that’s the right thing for the team.