I don’t have to tell you how bad the Green Bay Packers’ punting game was in 2009. Still, Jeremy Kapinos did a better job than Derrick Frost, whom the Packers infamously kept in favor of Jon Ryan in 2008. Unfortunately, Kapinos was last or close to last in the NFL in almost every punting category in 2009.
I don’t think it’s necessary to throw too many statistics at you in this case, so I’ll just give you a few quick ones:
The only category where Kapinos was not awful, but simply mediocre, was punting average, where Kapinos’ 43.8 gross yds per kick average placed him 16th in the NFL. Of course, we all know it’s net yards per kick average that counts most. Kapinos was dead last in the league in that category. Equally important, Kapinos was 31st in the NFL in punts inside the 20, had the second-most touchbacks, and was dead last (a recurring theme) in punts fair caught.
At this past week’s Scouting Combine, Coach Mike McCarthy had some harsh words: “For him to be on our team next year, he needs to improve,” McCarthy said. “The performance in that position will improve with him or without him.”
Well, it looks like it will be without him. As I write this on Wednesday evening, I see that the Packers have offered tenders to nine of their own free agents, but Jeremy Kapinos is not one of them.
And by the way, as this artricle on ProFootballTalk.com states, he is not happy about it.
So what do the Packers have up their sleeve? Certainly they don’t plan on giving the job to street free agent Tim Masthay, who has been described thusly: “The primary knocks on him are inconsistency, questionable directional punting ability and slower get-off time because of his 2½-step style”. Yes, that sounds promising…
No, the Packers obviously have another plan. They could be planning to select a punter in the late rounds of the NFL Draft, or more likely, will wait to see which college punters go undrafted and place some quick phone calls to them at the conclusion of the draft.
The problem with that plan is that it still leaves punting as a huge question mark. In this scenario, there can be not even an ounce of confidence that the punting problem has really been fixed.
No, there must be something else up the Packer’s sleeve, and it could involve a 41 year old punter; Wisconsin born, raised and educated Matt Turk. (Turk was born in Greenfield Wisconsin, attended the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, played for the Racine Raiders and was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Packers in 1993)
Why Matt Turk? Again, giving you just the most important stats; In case you are worried about his age, Turk hasn’t missed a game in 4 years and has been amazingly consistent over that span. Punting for the Texans last season, Turk was 12th in the league in net average, 16th in kicks inside the 20, had the 3rd most punts fair caught and was 16th in touchbacks (the lower the better here).
Turk is an unrestricted free agent (UFA) that was paid just over one million dollars in 2009. Kapinos made just over $400K.
Certainly, Turk is not a top-ten punter, and this wouldn’t be the long-term solution, but for an extra $700,000 or so, at least the Packers punting game would be palatable and not the worst in the league. If the Packers think they have legitimate Super Bowl hopes this year, then I think it would be worth it. Could this be what the Packers are planning?
The only other UFA punter of note is long-time Colts punter Hunter Smith, who spent the last season with the Washington Redskins. While slightly behind Turk in most punting statistics, he is 9 years younger and made $900,000 in 2009. The other advantage Smith would bring is that he is an excellent holder and that could help Mason Crosby, who needs all the help he can get.
So, could Ted Thompson be thinking “rent-a-punter” for a year or two? The price is certainly affordable enough and there is no long-term commitment required. I think it makes sense.
And one more thing, for those of you who like to say that it’s easy to find a punter off the street, let me figuratively give you a New Jersey smack in the head. It’s easy to find sucky punters off the street – the Packers have certainly proven that.
Jersey Al Bracco is the Green Bay Packers Draft Analyst for Drafttek.com. You can find more of Jersey Al ’s articles on several sports web sites: NFL Touchdown , Packers Lounge , Packer Chatters & Bleacher Report .