With Matt Stover telling the world tonight that the Ravens have given him the boot (OK, sorry, just to had get that in there), the biggest question now is…
Is it a mistake to let Stover go?
My answer: I have no idea if it’s a good move until I see who they bring in to replace him.
A slew of free-agent kickers are available. Some are of decent quality, some are not.
I wrote about the kicking issue five days ago at WNST.net…you can check out the stats of a couple who are still free agents.
Two names in that blog are no longer available. Mike Nugent signed with Tampa Bay on Wednesday and Jay Feely re-signed with the New York Jets on Thursday. With Nugent moving to Tampa Bay, it would appear Matt Bryant is out of job. Here are his numbers.
Matt Stover hinted on Thursday that the Jets were a possible destination for him now that the Ravens have sent him on his way. I assume that was BEFORE the Jets brought Feely back into the fold. With Feely returning, Stover doesn’t have an option to join Rex Ryan at the Meadowlands.
Stover can still kick – successfully – in the NFL. If Hall of Fame voters took kicking seriously, as they should, #3 would be in Canton someday. He’s been that good.
I talked to a Ravens official yesterday and he said the team’s biggest concern with Stover has more to do with the team’s need for two kickers than a general concern about Matt’s actual place-kicking production.
“The coaching staff would have to battle every game to decide whether to put (Steve) Hauschka on the game-day roster or another special teams guy,” said the staffer. “You would rather not deal with that issue in a perfect world. Dressing two kickers is a luxury and those roster spots are precious on game-day.”
The Ravens perfect world no longer includes Matt Stover.
So, back to the original question we go.
Who’s the new kicker?
Shaun Suisham? Not as consistent as Stover.
John Carney? He (44) is OLDER than Stover (41).
Martin Gramatica? He’s only attempted 24 kicks in the last 4 years. Injury prone.
Or, do the Ravens just hand the job over to Hauschka and say, “Keep making kicks, kid, and you’ll have a job here.” That’s a fairly risky proposition, particularly when one game, one win or one missed 44 yarder can cost you a trip to the post-season. Sure, you have to give a young player his trial at some point, but field goal kicking is some high-wire stuff. Better be able to handle the pressure.
Kicking being what it is, it’s easy to determine if a guy is a “good replacement” or a bad one.
Does he make kicks? Does he win a game from 42-yards out with 4 seconds to play? Does he kick the ball deep enough on kick-offs and help your team with field position?
If he does, he’s employable.
If he doesn’t, he’s not.
Stover was always reliable and that’s why he spent 17 years in the league.
Let’s hope the next guy is reliable too.
If he isn’t, it was a bad move to boot Matt Stover right now.