The Rams have locked up All-Pro punter Johnny Hekker for the next several seasons, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com, who reports (via Twitter) that the two sides have agreed to a new six-year, $18MM extension. The deal, which includes $9MM in guaranteed money, keeps Hekker under team control through the 2020 season.
Hekker, who had been in the final year of his rookie contract, would’ve been eligible for restricted free agency this offseason. Since he went undrafted out of Oregon State, the 24-year-old only has three years of experience under his belt, rather than four. Through his first three seasons, Hekker earned minimum base salaries and a signing bonus of just $10K, so the new contract represents a significant raise.
Hekker earns that raise after ranking second overall among punters last season, according to Pro Football Focus’ advanced grades (subscription required), and leading the league with 44.3 net yards per punt. A year later, that net average has dipped slightly to 42.1 yards, but that still puts the Rams punter among the top five in the NFL, and PFF ranks him third overall.
Although there are plenty of punters and kickers whose contracts exceed the $18MM total and $3MM annual average value on Hekker’s new deal, the $9MM guarantee is a league-high for either position. Previously, the largest guarantees on current pacts belonged to Sebastian Janikowski ($8MM) and Dustin Colquitt ($7.9MM).