One of the most surprising developments to come from Saturday's roster cuts was the decision by the New Orleans Saints to cut both of their place-kickers. Both journeyman veteran and incumbent Shayne Graham as well as young hopeful Derek Dimke lost their roster spots with the Saints after a spirited preseason competition. Throughout camp, neither kicker played themselves into a strong enough position to vault themselves over the other, and in the preseason their stats proved to be similar as well.
Here is a look at their preseason stat lines:
Field Goals: 4 of 4
Longest FG: 49 yards
Extra Points: 5 of 5
Dimke has yet to play in the regular season for an NFL team.
Field Goals: 4 of 4
Longest FG: 39 yards
Extra Points: 4 of 5
In the regular season, Graham has a career field goal percentage of 85.5% and an extra point percentage of 98.7%. Graham's career long field goal is set at 53 yards.
Besides Graham's XP miss, the only obvious difference in their preseason performances was that Dimke was 2 for 2 in attempts between 40-49 yards while Graham did not attempt a kick from those distances. Despite the fact that both men were cut by the team just two days ago, it wouldn't come as much of a surprise if one of these two returned as the Saints kicker tomorrow. Of course, in order to facilitate the necessary space on the 53-man roster, the Saints will need to designate one of the current players to the injured reserve list. It will likely be fullback Erik Lorig or linebacker Khairi Fortt that is moved to the IR list to make space for a kicker on the roster.
Let's take a look at some potential free agent kickers the Saints can bring in to fill the role this season:
Barth has a career field goal percentage of 84.2% and an extra point percentage of 100%. Barth's career long field goal is set at 57 yards. Although Barth missed the 2013 season due to a torn Achillies tendon, he has been a pain to the Saints during his tenure with the Buccaneers. He was cut from Tampa due to his $2 million contract in favor of a much cheaper option at the position. Tampa suffered no cap hit in releasing Barth as well. Ultimately, Connor Barth is my preferred choice to land in New Orleans as the Saints' new kicker.
Bironas has a career field goal percentage of 85.7% and an extra point percentage of 99.4%. Bironas' career long field goal is set at 60 yards. Although Bironas was a mainstay as the Titans kicker for nearly the last decade, the team parted ways with him due to his age (36) and his contract ($2.8 million). Bironas would be a nice addition for the Saints at kicker, as his consistency from the "Hartley zone" would be ideal for a Sean Payton coached team.
Feely has a career field goal percentage of 82.7% and an extra point percentage of 99.6%. Feely's career long field goal is set at 61 yards. Veteran journeyman kicker Jay Feely was cut by the Cardinals due to his age (38) and the fact that his rookie competition had a stronger leg with far less mileage. Feely wouldn't be a bad option for the Saints, but he may not be much better than what they had in Shayne Graham.
Ryan Succop *Update - Signed by Tennessee*
Succop has a career field goal percentage of 81.0% and an extra point percentage of 100%. Succop's career long field goal is set at 54 yards. Succop was ultimately cut by the Chiefs due to his contract which would have seen him make $1.9 million in 2014 and $7.6 million over the course of the next 3 seasons. He was beat out by rookie kicker Cairo Santos out of Tulane who will make only $420k in 2014. The 27 year old kicker is not a terrible option for the Saints, but he isn't a top choice either.
Henery has a career field goal percentage of 86.0% and an extra point percentage of 99.1%. Henery's career long field goal is set at 51 yards. Henery was cut by the Eagles to the sound of thunderous applause by the folks over at Bleeding Green Nation. If this is how they felt about the guy, then I surely want nothing to do with him in black and gold. The only reason to pick up a guy this maligned is if there is no one else left. Henery seems to be the Eagles' version of FPK, but worse.
and speaking of...
Hartley has a career field goal percentage of 81.2% and an extra point percentage of 99.4%. Hartley's career long field goal is set at 55 yards. Hartley hasn't kicked in the NFL since being released by the Saints late last season. The man who kicked the Saints into the Super Bowl and into the Super Bowl record books, is also remembered as the guy who missed crucial kicks that could have been made by most of the kickers listed above. His heart wrenching moments at moderate distance may just be far too much for Sean Payton and Who Dat Nation to bear once again. The odds of Hartley returning are long at best, but stranger things have happened.
Once Lorig and/or Fortt are placed on IR, kicker will immediately be addressed. I am fairly certain that the position will be filled by one of three players:
1- Shayne Graham
2- Derek Dimke
3- Connor Barth
We'll just have to wait and see who the Saints ultimately decide on. Thankfully, we won't have to wait much longer. At some point this season, a game will likely come down to the leg of one of these men, hopefully the Saints will chose the right one to get the job done. The saying may be true, and we just may see if one team's trash is another team's treasure.