Matt Bryant

Falcons Cut Matt Bryant, Sign Younghoe Koo

Matt Bryant‘s second stint as the Falcons’ kicker is over. The Falcons have released the longtime veteran, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link).

Atlanta worked out kickers Younghoe Koo and Elliott Fry yesterday, foreshadowing this move. Shortly after we heard Bryant was getting released, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network tweeted that the team is indeed signing Koo. Bryant spent ten years as the Falcons’ kicker from 2009-18, then was cut after last season. He spent all summer as a free agent, then was re-signed right before the start of the season when Giorgio Tavecchio and Blair Walsh struggled during the preseason.

Bryant is 44 and has been one of the league’s most recognizable kickers for the better part of two decades. After originally spending some time in the AFL and NFL Europe in the early 2000’s, he was finally able to latch on with the Giants. Bryant has already missed five field goals and an extra point this season, and this is likely the end of the road for him. In Atlanta’s Week 6 loss to the Cardinals, he missed a crucial extra point late in the game as the Falcons ended up losing by a single point.

Koo started the 2017 season off as the Chargers’ kicker, but was quickly released after missing a few clutch kicks. He has bounced around soon, including a stint in the AAF, and was on the Patriots’ practice squad earlier this season. Koo, the South Korean native who played his college ball at Georgia Southern, is definitely talented and a worthwhile flyer for a rebuilding Falcons team.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Falcons To Sign Matt Bryant

The Falcons are re-signing veteran kicker Matt Bryant, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter). It’s a one-year, $3MM deal, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (via Twitter). Bryant retired after parting ways with Atlanta in the offseason, but he’ll return at the age of 44 to handle Atlanta’s kicking duties.

Bryant will take over the job that was supposed to belong to either Giorgio Tavecchio or Blair Walsh this year. Both kickers struggled in practice – with Walsh having serious hiccups in full view of the press earlier this week – so Bryant will go from the couch to the field to solidify their special teams.

Bryant, 44, nailed 95.2% of his field goal tries for the Falcons last year, but the Falcons elected to save money by declining his 2019 option. Now, Bryant will resume work in Atlanta for his eleventh-straight season with the club.

Matt Bryant To Try Out For Falcons

Maybe age really is just a number. Kicker Matt Bryant will try out for the Falcons on Friday, according to Bryant’s former teammate and current CNN reporter Coy Wire (on Twitter). 

Bryant, 44, nailed 95.2% of his field goal tries for the Falcons last year, but the Falcons elected to save money by declining his 2019 option. It brought an end to Bryant’s 10-year run as the Falcons’ top leg, though they could rekindle their relationship if Bryant auditions well on Friday.

Blair Walsh, whose career has been defined by ill-timed misses, was recently brought on board to challenge Giorgio Tavecchio (Bryant’s initial replacement). This week, in full view of the press, Walsh went just 5-of-9 on his field goal attempts in practice.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Falcons, Vikings, Crabtree

The Falcons had one of the most stable kicking situations in the league until this year. Matt Bryant had been the team’s kicker for the past ten seasons before they finally decided to move on and cut him back in February. The team had Giorgio Tavecchio all set to replace him, but Tavecchio has faltered during the preseason. In response, Atlanta went out and signed Blair Walsh to provide some competition for him. Now we’ve learned Walsh wasn’t the only kicker they kicked the tires on.

Falcons coach Dan Quinn said the team discussed bringing Bryant back before ultimately going with Walsh, according to D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter link). In a separate tweet, Ledbetter notes that Quinn said it will be an open competition now between Tavecchio and Walsh. Bryant has kicked in the league since 2002, but the 44-year-old has been unable to find a new gig. He made the Pro Bowl in 2016 and was usually a reliable option, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Falcons reach back out midseason if whoever they roll with to start the year slips up.

Here’s more from the NFC:

  • Speaking of kicking controversies, it sounds like the Vikings might have one on their hands. Minnesota traded a fifth-round pick to the Ravens for Kaare Vedvik, seemingly putting the issue to rest. Vedvik then missed his first two field goal attempts as a Viking in their most recent preseason game, prompting head coach Mike Zimmer to say he has a “high” level of concern about the position, per Courtney Cronin of ESPN.com. “I honestly don’t know” what the team will do now, Zimmer said. “Since we brought Vedvik in, Wile has been punting good and Bailey has been kicking good, and then Vedvik goes out there and misses field goals. I don’t know. I’m at a loss on that.” Vedvik was initially expected to handle both punting and kicking duties, and now it sounds like he might not even make the team. Dan Bailey seemed like he was soon to be out of a job last week, but he’s been given new life now. This will be a situation to monitor during the team’s fourth and final preseason game.
  • The Cardinals signed receiver Michael Crabtree a few days ago, and now we have the details on his contract. Crabtree got a one-year deal worth $3.25MM that can be upped to $5.5MM if he hits incentives, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link). Crabtree originally visited with the Cards weeks ago, but a potential deal was called off over a disagreement about compensation. Arizona reportedly offered him a one-year, $2.5MM deal the first time around, so they upped their offer by $750K in base value.
  • In case you missed it, Lions starting linebacker Jarrad Davis will miss some regular season time with a high ankle sprain.

Mutual Interest Between Bucs, Matt Bryant

Before Matt Bryant‘s 10-year Falcons tenure, he established himself as a reliable NFL kicker during a four-year Tampa Bay stay.

Bryant is interested in returning to the Buccaneers, and the 17-year veteran’s former team is “definitely” interested in bringing Bryant back, Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com reports.

The Falcons will not pick up Bryant’s option for 2019, sending him toward free agency. The Bucs cannot sign him until March 13, when his contract expires, since this is an option-based departure rather than an outright release. But after several years of issues at kicker, the Bucs may have a solution planned.

They are definitely an option,” Bryant said, via McClure. “I could definitely [see myself] going back there to play. Bucs special teams coach Keith [Armstrong] knows me, and I know him. We’ve worked together. There’s a strong familiarity. I mean, there are all kind of things that go into this.”

The Bucs hired Armstrong this offseason. He was the Falcons’ special teams coordinator from 2008-18.

Bryant, who kicked for the Bucs from 2005-08 and still has a house in Tampa, will turn 44 in May and missed three games due to injury last season. But he made 20 of his 21 field goal attempts, including four from beyond 50 yards. The 95.2 percent success rate was the best of his career.

The Bucs went through two kickers last season — Chandler Catanzaro and Cairo Santos, who combined to make 20 of 27 field goal tries — and used two more (Nick Folk and Patrick Murray) in 2017. Folk beat out Roberto Aguayo in training camp that year. Aguayo has not kicked in an NFL game since missing nine field goals as a rookie. The 2015 Bucs used two kickers as well, Connor Barth and Kyle Brindza. Bryant obviously has a much better track record than this group over the past several years.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Rams, Singleton, Pats

There is a definite post-Super Bowl lull in the NFL world right now, and while we will soon be talking about free agent rumors and the April draft in earnest, today is not that day. But there is still professional football to watch if you’re interested, and there are a few NFL items of note to discuss, so let’s get to them:

  • Vincent Bonsignore of The Athletic examines how the Rams might address some of their biggest needs this offseason. The club is projected to have about $41MM in salary cap space, and Bonsignore suggests that LA must find a dominant edge rusher to take some pressure off of Aaron Donald. Luckily, this year’s draft features quite a bit of pass rushing talent if the Rams choose to steer clear of the pricey free agent market for edge defenders.
  • Todd Gurley will obviously be back with the Rams, but given his history of knee problems, and the impact that his most recent knee injury had on the team’s playoff run, Bonsignore says LA will think long and hard about adding another back to share the load (we learned last week that the club is interested in bringing back C.J. Anderson). He also suggests that the Rams could bring back Ndamukong Suh on a two-year deal, and that Mark Barron could be a cap casualty.
  • The Bengals will hire Jemal Singleton as their running backs coach, per Jeremy Rauch of Fox 19 (via Twitter). Singleton previously served in the same capacity with the Colts from 2016-17 and with the Raiders in 2018.
  • Jenna Laine of ESPN.com examines a few free agents that the Buccaneers might consider, a list that includes safety Tyrann Mathieu — who of course has a history with new head coach Bruce Arians — and kicker Matt Bryant.
  • After the recent exodus of coaching talent, Mike Reiss of ESPN.com names a few Patriots coaching assistants who could be elevated to position-coach roles. Cole Popovich, Mike Pellegrino, DeMarcus Covington, and Brian Belichick could all be promoted in short order.
  • Pro Football Focus released its list of the top 10 players eligible for free agency in March and projected the contracts those players might land. Five of the top six players are edge rushers, including Jadeveon Clowney, the top player on the list, whom PFF expects to land a six-year, $135MM deal with $85MM in guarantees. Clowney, of course, is expected to be hit with the franchise tag, so if he gets a contract of that size this year, it will likely come from the Texans.

Falcons To Release Matt Bryant

The Falcons are parting ways with kicker Matt Bryant. The club informed him of his impending release, according to an announcement from Bryant on social media. 

“I was informed last night that the team was moving on from my services and that I would be released,” Bryant wrote. “I want to say thank you to all the fans that have stood with me and my family during our time here. I take great pride in my body of work on and off the field. I hope I have represented you well while I was here. It was an honor to be a part of some big moments in this franchise’s history. This chapter is now closed. I look forward to bringing the success and consistency that I’ve produced to my next team.”

Bryant has repeatedly said that he plans to play into his age-44 season. His age could work against him in free agency, but his 2018 season proved that he still has something left in the tank. Bryant connected on 20 of 21 field goals, including a 57-yarder, giving him a 95.2% completion percentage. He also sank 33 of 35 extra point tries.

Bryant signed a three-year, $10.5MM extension with Atlanta last offseason that would have carried him through the 2020 season. Under the old deal, he would have made $2.45MM base salary in ’19.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Falcons K Matt Bryant To Return In 2019

It sounds like Matt Bryant is sticking around for at least another season. The veteran kicker announced on Twitter that he won’t be retiring this offseason.

“Over this past year I’ve been asked numerous times about retirement and how I feel,” Bryant wrote. “Well, I’m not retiring and I feel fine and plan on feeling even better with some changes to my offseason program!”

The 43-year-old just completed his 17th NFL season and his 10th-straight campaign with the Falcons. Bryant was actually incredibly efficient in 2018, converting a career-high 95.2-percent of his field goal attempts (20-of-21). He was also successful on 33 of his 35 extra point attempts.

Unfortunately, Bryant was limited to only 13 contests, the first time since 2015 that he hadn’t appeared in every game for Atlanta. The veteran battled a hamstring ailment throughout the season, and the “changes” to his offseason routine may be intended to remedy any reoccurring issues.

Bryant inked a three-year extension worth $10.5MM with the Falcons last offseason that would last through the 2020 season. The veteran is set to earn a $2.45MM base salary in 2019.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

South Rumors: Falcons, Buccaneers, Morgan

The Falcons will be looking for a new kicker for temporary purposes. Matt Bryant will miss Atlanta’s Week 7 Monday night game, Dan Quinn said. The longtime Falcons kicker is dealing with a strained hamstring, per Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com, who adds Giorgio Tavecchio is among the names the Falcons are considering as a replacement. Tavecchio was briefly affiliated with the Falcons earlier this year, but Bryant’s kicked in all six Falcon games in his 10th season with the franchise. He hasn’t missed a game since he was limited to 11 appearances in 2015. Tavecchio will be among “a number of kickers” considered during the lead-up to the Falcons’ home Monday-nighter against the Giants.

Here’s the latest from the South divisions, continuing on the Atlanta injury front:

  • Another week of recovery will likely be required for Devonta Freeman, per McClure. The Falcons’ starting running back is has dealt with knee and foot trouble and now has a groin issue to overcome. Atlanta’s gotten by with Tevin Coleman and newcomer Ito Smith in the backfield.
  • Ali Marpet became the latest Buccaneers starter to sign a lucrative extension, joining Mike Evans and Cameron Brate in doing so this year. More re-ups could be on track. Kwon Alexander and the Bucs are still talking an extension, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times reports. While Stroud writes it’s uncertain if the Bucs want to pay Alexander like a top-tier linebacker — they have Lavonte David on the books at $10MM per year — he’s on the radar. As is fourth-year left tackle Donovan Smith, who’s in a contract year. Despite rarely being viewed as a productive player by Pro Football Focus, Smith is well thought of among Bucs brass, per Stroud. Adam Humphries is another player the Bucs would like to retain, though they have a crowded receiver room. Chris Godwin‘s emerged as Tampa Bay’s No. 3 man and may be Evans’ top complement if DeSean Jackson ($10MM non-guaranteed salary in 2019) isn’t back next year. Humphries’ contract expires after this season.
  • Derrick Morgan will miss a few weeks because of a shoulder injury, Mike Vrabel said. A ninth-year player who dealt with a knee injury during the preseason, Morgan has played in all six Titans games this year and has only missed more than two games in a season once in the past eight years. Harold Landry will likely start opposite Brian Orakpo in the meantime.
  • Stationed on the Texans‘ PUP list, D’Onta Foreman can return to practice this week but probably won’t, per Bill O’Brien (via Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle, on Twitter). Foreman’s been out since late last season because of an Achilles’ tendon tear.
  • Braden Smith appears to have solidified himself as the Colts‘ right tackle. Indianapolis went through several players in hopes of identifying a candidate, but Frank Reich said Monday (via ESPN.com’s Mike Wells, on Twitter) this job will be Smith’s to lose. Smith’s started three games for the Colts this season.
  • Former Lions, Patriots and Bengals linebacker Marquis Flowers worked out for the Texans on Monday, Sarah Barshop of ESPN.com tweets. The Lions cut Flowers last week. He played in 16 games for the Bengals in 2015 and ’16 and suited up for all 19 of the Patriots’ games last year.

Falcons, K Matt Bryant Agree To Extension

Another potential free agent kicker is off the board. The Falcons and kicker Matt Bryant have agreed to a three-year extension, according to a team announcement.

Bryant’s new deal is worth $10.5MM and contains a $2MM signing bonus, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link). The pact also comes with an incentive package that could take the total value of the contract to $12MM. On an annual basis, Bryant is now the eighth-highest paid kicker in the NFL after receiving what amounts to a $670K yearly raise.

Bryant will turn 43 years old before the 2018 season starts, but he still looked sharp last season. In 2017, he nailed 87.2% of his field goals, good for 12th in the NFL. He also sank eight-of-nine attempts from 50 yards or more, so his power hasn’t deteriorated much.

Earlier this offseason, the Colts re-upped their own aging kicker in Adam Vinatieri, even though he turned 45 in December. The Titans also locked down a would-be free agent kicker in Ryan Succop when they inked him to a five-year, $20MM extension in February.

Panthers kicker Graham Gano might be the next big leg to sign a multi-year deal. Carolina is working on an extension with the 30-year-old (31 in April) and they’ll probably franchise tag him on Tuesday if no accord can be reached.

Bryant won’t make it to the open market, but other notable kickers will, including Sebastian Janikowski, Chandler Catanzaro, Caleb Sturgis, and Kai Forbath.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.