Ranking the 2013 Free Agents: Punters
Every day last week we were breaking down the top free agents at each position, and we’ll continue this week. It’s more than just looking at our grades, but factoring in longevity, age, injuries and so much more in order to tell you who we think are the best gets out there.
We’re not going to insult your intelligence though when it comes to guys unlikely to hit the open market because of restricted free agency, so don’t expect to see names like Victor Cruz or Brian De La Puente in these pieces. Instead we’re focusing on guys with a real shot at dipping their feet into the free agent pool and making your team better.
We’ve recently run down some of the other top offensive free agents (quarterbacks, running backs, fullbacks, wide receivers, tight ends, offensive tackles, kickers), and now we continue with punters, because they’re people too…
1. Donnie Jones – to PHI: 1-year, $0.9m
2012 Grade: +32.5
Summary: Donnie Jones might have the strongest leg of any of the players on this list. He is much improved in terms of touch on his punts from earlier in his career when he was all about leg strength, but he’s still not quite on a par with some of the better directional punters in the league. Overall, 48 of his 88 punts last season were returned, contributing to the fall in net yardage from 47.2 gross to 40.5 net. The only two punters to have punted for more total yardage than Jones last season were playing for Arizona and Jacksonville, which unsurprisingly were two teams with major problems on offense.
2. Shane Lechler – to HOU: 3-year, $5.5m
2012 Grade: +18.6
Summary: Once the unquestioned punt king of the NFL, Lechler’s form has nosedived and saw him collect a grade some 14 points worse off than he was in 2011. Lechler has always had a huge leg, but he had massively improved the directional aspect of his game, until last year when that seemed at times to take a huge step back. He led the league (jointly with Miami’s Brandon Fields) in touchbacks with nine, but in 81 punts he kicked just four out of bounds, had just seven downed by his own team and 16 fair caught. Only 24 of those kicks ended up inside the 20 and his percentage of kicks returned was one of the higher marks in the league. Can Lechler get back to his best?
3. Kevin Huber – stays in CIN: 5-year, $14m
2012 Grade: +21.2
Summary: Huber is second youngest player on this list but does have some interesting numbers. Only 35.5% of his kicks were returned, which is just short of the best players in the league in that area. His net of 42 yards per punt placed him sixth in the league last year. He had punts returned for a total of 210 yards last season, which wasn’t the best score in the league, but was the best of anybody on this list.
4. Sav Rocca – stays in WAS: 2-year, $2.2m
2012 Grade: +13.3
Summary: Rocca finished the year with our 19th highest punting grade, though to be fair he didn’t have quite as much opportunity as some of the guys around him with his 68 being only the 22nd highest amount of punts, and 12 guys having at least 10 more punts than him. He had an exceptionally high (57.4%) number of punts returned which didn’t help him with a net yardage average of 38.3, the seventh lowest figure in the league. That all seems a bit negative but he showed on multiple occasions he could come through when the Skins needed him to.
5. Brian Moorman – to DAL
2012 Grade: +0.0
Summary: At this stage you’re probably looking at some of the free agents available, but if you look at the former Bill Moorman, you might hope that he can find the form of yesteryear where as recently as 2011 he was our 15th ranked punter overall. Was 2012 just a bad year not helped by switching teams early on? Very possibly.
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