Our list of 2015 free agents provides a comprehensive position-by-position breakdown of which players are eligible to hit the open market this year. However, that list of names doesn’t include much context or additional information about those players. So, with March’s free agent period fast approaching, we’ll be taking a closer look this month at the free agent market for each position. Today, we’ll turn our attention to kickers and punters. Let’s dive in….
- Matt Bryant (Falcons)
- Billy Cundiff (N/A)
- Jay Feely (Bears)
- Kai Forbath (Washington) (RFA)
- Stephen Gostkowski (Patriots)
- Mike Nugent (Bengals)
- Matt Prater (Lions)
- Ryan Succop (Titans)
- Justin Tucker (Ravens) (RFA)
Gostkowski is perhaps the most notable name on this year’s list of free agent kickers, and for all the talk about the Patriots’ willingness to move on from high-priced players earlier than expected, the team has only really employed two kickers – Gostkowski and Adam Vinatieri – since 1996. If the Pats see a young prospect they like that would cost a fraction of Gostkowski’s salary, I’d fully expect them to move on, particularly with a couple other notable players to retain. But the club has been willing to pay its kicker like one of the league’s best ($3.4MM annually) in recent years, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see that continue.
As restricted free agents who have been very effective in their first three seasons, Tucker and Forbath almost certainly aren’t going anywhere, but we could see some movement with the rest of the group. Succop, Prater, and Feely joined their current teams in 2014, so there’s not much history there. They’re more likely to switch teams than guys like Bryant and Nugent, who have been with their respective clubs for a few seasons now.
Besides Gostkowski and perhaps Bryant, none of these guys should be among the league’s most highly-paid kickers, though Tucker could join those ranks soon — his status as a restricted free agent should keep his salary modest for one more season, but if Baltimore wants to work out something longer-term, it figures to cost $3MM+ per year. Tucker’s conversion percentage dipped a little last season, but his five missed attempts all came from 50+ yards.
- Chris Jones (Cowboys) (RFA)
- Brett Kern (Titans)
- Marquette King (Raiders) (RFA)
- Mat McBriar (Chargers)
No position will have less drama during this free agent period than punter. As restricted free agents, Jones and King likely aren’t going anywhere as long as their teams want them back, which seems like a reasonable bet. McBriar probably won’t return to San Diego if injured starter Mike Scifres is ready to go for training camp. That leaves Kern, whose performance last season was certainly strong enough to warrant interest from rival suitors — it’s just a matter of finding an opening. If the Titans haven’t gotten anything done with their punter by March 10, expect clubs looking for an upgrade at the position to kick the tires on him.
Previous looks at the 2015 free agent market: