It’s a really big question. With confidence in Billy Cundiff seemingly disappearing as some veteran kickers become available, it’s a good time to ask. The two veterans that have been linked most to the Ravens are Bengals’ Shayne Graham and free agent Neil Rackers. I have to admit that Jamison Hensley beat me to the punch on the topic, but I’d like to add some more thoughts and not focus on Jay Feely as a candidate. As a side note, some of Hensley’s stats are terribly wrong.
- Billy Cundiff is on the team. As of today, he is the starting kicker. He has no competition, being the only established kicker on the roster. I have expressed concern about him multiple times, and it now looks like the Ravens coaching staff is as well. Cundiff went 12-17 with the team in 9 games, missing 3 field goals from 30-39 yards away. Just something to think about: Cundiff has the worst success rate in kicking field goals (FG%) of every active NFL starting kicker.
- Shayne Graham is one of the NFL’s best kickers if you’re basing your argument off the kicker’s track record. The Bengal is the 4th-most accurate kicker in NFL history and has the 2nd-best FG% among current NFL starters with more than 5 years of experience. Great deal, right? Sign one of the NFL’s best, and get rid of Cundiff? Here’s the catch: the Bengals put the franchise tag on Graham. Even though he’s being talked about like he’s a free agent, he’s still property of the Benny-Gals.
- Neil Rackers deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Graham. Kicking for the Cardinals in 2009, Rackers only missed one field goal. In 2005, the extremely strong-legged went 40-42 in field goals and 6-7 from beyond 50 yards, producing one of the NFL’s best-ever seasons for a kicker. Taking away his first two seasons in Cincinatti, which were horrid, Rackers has hit 82% of his field goal chances. If you take away his kicks from beyond 50 yards in those 8 seasons, his FG% rises to a very good 88%. Because he can make kicks up to 60 yards, the Cardinals tended to make him kick from unreasonable distances. That’s why that 88% is closer to his real potential.
- April’s NFL Draft probably won’t produce the team’s starting kicker. With that said, the kicking
class is relatively deep this year, highlighted by 5’8″ Brett Swenson out of Michigan State. While he may be small, he is a great kicking prospect. His long at MSU was 52 yards, and he had two 100-point seasons in his four years as a Spartan. Missing only one kick his senior year from less than 50 yards, Swenson is as solid as they come out of college. Some don’t rank Swenson as the #1 kicker, and prefer Alabama’s Leigh Tiffin or the former OSU Buckeye Aaron Pettrey, both of whom can kick over 50 yards.
Regardless of what happens this offseason in the kicking department, the kicker, as always, will be one of the Ravens’ most important players. Fans can only hope that whatever move is made, or not made, is the best action for the team. And I don’t think anybody’s forgotten about the long snapping situation with Matt Katula, keeping that in mind when kicking comes into any conversation.
Note: Sorry about having both pictures on the right side, I couldn’t get them on alternating sides.