Top 8 free agent kickers and punters
Now that the season is officially over it’s time to look ahead to free agency. In this article, we will look at the top eight kickers and punters in the current free agent pool. Special teams play an important role in the NFL every week. This postseason alone, we witnessed the kicking game being directly responsible for one game’s outcome, and significantly altering the finish of another. Teams looking to take their kicking games from a weakness to a strength will find some solid options below, especially at placekicker.
To see every 2016 free agent, be sure to check out the PFF free agent tracker.
(Editor’s note: This list was updated on March 2, 2015. Justin Tucker, Marquette King, and Mason Crosby have all been removed from the list due franchise tagging and new contracts.)
1. Adam Vinatieri, K
2015 team: Indianapolis Colts
The ageless Vinatieri has just three missed field goals the last two seasons, which were the fewest of any full-time kicker. Although he’s been seven-of-eight on field goals longer than 50 yards during that stretch, he hasn’t kicked off since 2008, which may limit his perceived value on the open market. It’s hard to see him repeating his feat as one of the all-time best free agent acquisitions this time around, but it’s safe to say he as at least a year or two of quality kicking left in the tank.
2. Josh Brown, K
2015 team: New York Giants
While he struggled on kickoffs (third-worst kickoff grade among kickers), Brown’s field goal percentage (93.8) was tied with Dan Bailey’s for first in the league in 2015. He has missed just eight kicks since joining the Giants in 2013, and only one extra point in the new format this past season. Still relatively young (36) by kicking standards, Brown appears to be hitting his stride at just the right time to cash in on free agency.
3. Bryan Anger, P
2015 team: Jacksonville Jaguars
While he will always be remembered as the punter that was selected ahead of Russell Wilson in 2012, he’s received a top-12 grade amongst punters in three of his four seasons. In 2014, he finished second in the league in gross average (47.3 yards per punt), while in 2015, he cut his touchbacks down from the 10 he had in 2014 to four.
4. Phil Dawson, K
2015 team: San Francisco 49ers
Much like Vinatieri, Dawson didn’t handle his team’s kickoffs in 2015 (kicking off just nine times for -2.6 kickoff grade), suggesting age (41) could be a concern heading into free agency. However, he rebounded from a down year on field goals (80.6 field goal percentage) in 2014 to miss just four kicks in 2015 (88.9 percent), including one that was blocked.
5. Jon Ryan, P
2015 team: Seattle Seahawks
After finished sixth among punters in overall punting grade in 2014, Ryan fell to 12th in 2015, with a net average of 37.6 yards per punt ranking as the third-worst in the league. Some of this can be attributed to his coverage units, however, which surrendered 382 return yards on just 29 returns (13.2 average), which was up from 196 yards on 16 returns in 2014 (12.25 average).
6. Brad Nortman, P
2015 team: Carolina Panthers
Nortman had an up-and-down 2015, with eight negatively-graded games throughout the season (including all three of his playoff games) and just 22-of-70 punts downed inside the 20 (down from 30-of-73 in 2014). The team signing Nortman will hope he returns to his 2013 form, where he was the sixth-highest graded punter in the league, posting the fourth-best gross average (47.7 yards per punt) in the process.
7. Ryan Quigley, P
2015 team: New York Jets
Much like Ryan, in 2015 Quigley’s coverage units (432 yards on 34 returns) really suppressed his net punting average (36.7 yards per punt), which was second-worst in the league. He didn’t help his cause by averaging only 43.6 gross yards per punt (25th in the league) and dropping just 27-of-75 punts inside the 20. Like with Nortman, the team signing Quigley hopes he returns to a previous form, where he was a top-10 graded punter in 2014, allowing returns on just 32.4 percent of his punts (third-best in the NFL).
8. Greg Zuerlein, K
2015 team: St. Louis Rams
After a strong start to his career, Zuerlein has seen his grade on field goals and extra points decline all four years he has been in the league. However, he is just two years removed from being a top-five graded kicker, and 60 percent of his league-high 10 misses last season were from beyond 50 yards. He also missed two games in 2015 due to injury, which hampered his normally-strong leg. The team that acquires Zuerlein gets a relatively young kicker that, if healthy, has the potential to make a difference in the kicking game if he regains his old form.