Rams steal a division kicker - again
Posted Mar. 01 at 02:58 AM
In 1997, the Rams were in the market for a kicker and stole Jeff Wilkins from San Francisco when the 49ers (who definitely wanted him back) were pressed up against the salary cap. It worked out splendidly, helping St. Louis leapfrog past San Francisco in the NFC West. Wilkins is the league’s 8th most accurate kicker all-time, while the 49ers have struggled with kickers for years.
Eleven years later, the Rams are hoping history repeats itself. Wilkins retired last week, leaving St. Louis in the market for a kicker. And as luck would have it, the best one available again belong to a division rival. Josh Brown has a strong leg (he’s hit at least one field goal from 54-plus yards in each of his five seasons in the pros), and he’s hit a lot of pressure kicks, including two game-winners against St. Louis in 2006.
With Seattle (like the 49ers 11 years ago) pressed up against the cap, the Rams swept in and grabbed Brown, making him the highest-paid kicker in the league. Just under $3 million per year ($14.2 million for five years). In comparison to some of the other deals that have gone down in the last two years, that looks like a pretty good deal. Playing in a dome, Brown should rank in the top 10 in accuracy and long-range field goals over the next five years, and he has enough power that the Rams won’t have to carry a specialist for kickoffs.
The move also leaves the division-rival Seahawks scrambling to fill that position. Some teams have done well plugging in unproven youngsters at kicker (like Dallas and Green Bay last year with Nick Folk and Mason Crosby). But kicking problems have plagued other teams, including Kansas City, Atlanta and New Orleans.
The run-down on the free agent kickers:
1. Josh Brown (Sea.)
Not as well-known, but a better buy than Indianapolis made two years ago with Adam Vinatieri (has a stronger leg).
2. Rob Bironas (Tenn.)
Restricted free agent, so unlikely that he won’t again play for the Titans.
3. Lawrence Tynes (NYG)
Re-signed for $7 million for five years. If he had missed the overtime game-winner against the Packers, New York probably would have replaced him.
4. Jason Elam (Den.)
Used to be an elite kicker, but he’ll be 38 next week. Has converted more than 75 percent of his field goals in only two of his last five seasons. Overrated.
5. Dave Rayner (S.D.)
He’s a restricted free agent, but he can be had (the Chargers picked him up late last year only to help with kickoffs when Nate Kaeding was hurt). Rayner was an acceptable kicker two years ago with the Packers, and he’ll kick for somebody this year.
6. Mike Vanderjagt
Didn’t play in the NFL last year, but he might be better than a quarter or a third of the league’s kickers. Kind of a flake, kind of a jerk, but he can still kick. He’ll be 38 later this month.
7. Jeff Wilkins (St.L.)
Maybe he changes his mind and decides to play. He’ll be 36 in April.
8. John Carney (K.C.)
Can’t kick off and limited range, but he’s fine on shorter kicks. He’ll soon be 44. Kansas City currently has two cheapie youngsters under contract: Nick Novak and Billy Cundiff, who’ve both kicked a few games in the league for various teams.
9. Morten Andersen (Atl.)
Just like Carney, but even older.
10. Olindo Mare (N.O.)
Great on kickoffs, but has struggled with field goal accuracy in five of his last six seasons. Saints wanted him to take a paycut and compete with Martin Gramatica, but he declined.
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