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Saints 2011 Free Agents: Garrett Hartley

Garrett Hartley. The past few years he has brought the Saints to some of it's highest highs and a few lows. In 2009 he was one of the more consistent kickers and could be counted on for almost any kick. Except that Tampa Bay incident.

Expectations were high for Hartley in 2010. He had kicked the game winning field in the NFC Championship Game to bring New Orleans to it's first ever Super Bowl. He went down as one of the best kickers in Super Bowl history by making three 40+ yard field goals. He was the 2nd most picked kicker in fantasy football. The young lad from Oklahoma was doing well.

Then the season started. Hartley missed two field goals in the opening game against the Vikings. Both were within 30 yards. Hartley turned it around the next week in windy San Francisco but then missed a game-winner against the Falcons. The Saints went on to lose that game, thus setting the stage for the cluster____ that was the 2010 playoffs. He would rebound after being benched for John "I put the 'old' in old" Carney, going 20 for 25 on the year. But everytime Hartley steps up to kick, worries form in the heads of some fans.

Should the Saints keep Hartley? Should the Saints seek out a new kicker? Make the jump to read on!

Why the Saints should keep Hartley...

Best call ever (via gfreeze1025)

(Writer's Note: If you did not a) smile, b) cry, c) remember where you were at that moment or d) all of the above, after watching the above video, you are a Falcons/Vikings fan and a commie)

Why the Saints should not Keep Hartley...

Saints missed field goal + celebration fail (via luckenbachtx)

Why did you post two videos of Hartley's kicks?

Simple: both kicks were clutch situations. Yet one Hartley made and one he did not. In the second video, he missed a kick that he had made not ten minutes prior. Where is the consistency in his kicking? Shouldn't the Saints have a consistent kicker? Not a kicker who is consistently inconsistent.

Hartley did improve toward the end of the year so the Saints should cut him some slack. Right? Well, why did he rank 28th out of 40 league-wide in kicking percentage? That's the bottom third of all kickers. Hartley is best at long range kicks, ranked 10th in the league in kicks between 40-49 yards and ranked 1st in kicks over 50 yards. However, he needs to be able to hit those easy field goals to be a consistent kicker that can help put the questions at this position to rest.

To play Devil's Advocate, maybe I'm being a little hard on Hartley. He only missed five field goals on the year, four of which didn't even matter in the grand scheme of things. He was one of the better kickers long range. Hartley is going to be 25 next season and will be a little older, a little wiser and have a little more experience. He does have a career percentage of 85.7%, and he has shown he has the talent.

So should the Saints keep Hartley or should the Saints grab that kicker they have on the board in the 5th round? I'm leaning towards making him fight for his job. He proved towards the end of the season that he can improve, but he showed in the beginning that he can still struggle.

What about you guys? What do you think?