The period of free agency in the NFL isn’t welcomed by all positional players, none less so than punters, as this signing window often means relocation to a new city, a new team and new surroundings. Some, however, have been re-signed to their former teams, and a few punters remain FA’s. The purpose of this article is to document who has and who hasn’t signed new deals, whilst detailing the positives and negatives of each player’s situation.
Jordan Berry – Pittsburgh Steelers
Jordan Berry re-signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers on a two-year deal two weeks ago. As a Steeler fan, I’m quite disappointed regarding this contract. For me, Berry’s production in the 2018 season was undeserving of brandishing another contract, which leaves me dumbfounded as to why he has been brought back to the roster.
He is coming off the back of a 63 punt season, averaging only 43.7 yards per attempt (Tied 30th worst). Of course, he does boast one of the bigger legs in the league, having produced a 69-yard long punt this year, as well as a career-best 79-yard punt in his rookie season. Ultimately, the 2018 season was one to forget for the Australian, who possesses all the talent in the world, yet struggled with confidence. As a result of these confidence issues, his production was consistently inconsistent.
Nevertheless, the upcoming campaign will offer the chance for Berry to redeem himself, and I, for one, am rooting for that to happen.
Bradley Pinion – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Bradley Pinion was signed to a four-year, $11M deal earlier this week, as he relocates to South Florida ahead of the 2019 NFL season.
Pinion, who arrived in the league in 2015, was drafted 165th overall by the San Francisco 49ers. There, he was used extensively, having punted 334 times in a four-year career. Collectively, he has amassed 14,599 yards, averaged 43.7 yards per punt and produced a long of 65-yards.
In the 2018 campaign, he punted a career-low 68 times for 2973 yards. In addition, he nailed 22 punts inside the 20-yard marker.
I admire this deal on behalf of both the franchise and the player. For Tampa, they offered approximately $3.6M in guaranteed money, which is little risk, with the potential for high reward should Pinion ball out this season. Alternatively, if this experiment fails, Pinion and the organisation can easily part ways following the upcoming season. On behalf of Pinion, he can sustain his future in Florida both situationally and financially with strong performances, thus its a win, win.
Pat O’Donnell – Chicago Bears
The Chicago Bears elected to retain the services of one of their veterans in Pat O’Donnell, signing him to a two-year, $4M contract.
O’Donnell returns to the Windy City in fine form, having produced a career-best 37 punts inside the 20 (regular & post-season). Furthermore, he took to the field just 62 times, registering 2791 punt yards in the process.
Something that has cropped up with regards to O’Donnell’s extension is his involvement with holding. Many believe that the Bears’ kicking woes might not actually be due to the kicker totally, but perhaps O’Donnell isn’t holding the ball correctly, as evidenced below.
Despite the team’s concerns, I believe this deal is tremendous for the Bears. The biggest reason for this is the contract; it’s not overly long, nor is it expensive. In-fact, should they encounter further issues, or even evidence, with regards to his ability or lack thereof to hold for the kicker then they can alter his responsibilities accordingly. Moreover, O’Donnell can add that veteran leadership to the Bears’ special teams unit which desperately needs cheered up after Cody Parkey’s infamous ‘double doink’ in last season’s playoffs.
Ryan Allen – New England Patriots
The man, the myth, the legend – Ryan Allen.
The Patriots’ punter, who has been with the franchise since 2013, was officially re-signed this past week on a one-year, $1.55M deal. That figure, for me at least, is incredibly modest for a punter of Allen’s quality, who was one of the best performers in this years Super Bowl. Speaking of which, Allen’s 215 punt yards on just 5 attempts, with 3 making it inside the 20, absolutely stole the show for the Patriots as they grabbed their sixth Lombardi Trophy in a 13-3 victory earlier this year.
Aside from garnering a championship ring, Allen performed at a continuously high level this season, as he punted for 2885 yards on 64 attempts, averaging 45.1 yards per punt in the regular season. Additionally, he also added 21 punts inside the 20.
The Patriots are the master of the off, regular and postseason, we know that much by know. Yet, they win once again by signing Allen to a zero-commitment one-year cheap deal, which keeps their premiere punter in check for another season at least. As for Ryan, he is provided with another opportunity to prove his worth, which could set up for a big pay day later on down the line.
Bryan Anger – Free Agent
Bryan Anger was released on 12 March, 2019, by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, saving the team around $3M.
He has yet to be plucked off of the free agency production line, but I’m sure he won’t be on it for long. His 2018 campaign saw him punt 57 times for 2567 yards, averaging 45.0 yards per punt. He also booted a long punt of 64 yards, whilst notching 15 punts inside the 20-yard marker.
The former third round selection will most definitely be searching for a fresh start, after two solid stints in Jacksonville and Tampa Bay, respectively. Perhaps, if nothing else, Anger will be brought in as competition during the offseason, which may present an opportunity for him to gain a starting spot.
Credits: nfl.com (statistics).