Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Giving David Akers the Boot

Usually NFL fans don’t focus very much on their team’s kicker, but when your kicker is entering into his 13th NFL season and is one of the best in the league, the question of moving on without his services becomes relevant.  David Akers has been with the Eagles for 12 seasons from 1999-2010 and has never really been questioned or pushed by Andy Reid and Akers never gave Big Red a reason to make an adjustment at the position.  This off season is like none other and it looks as though David Akers tenure with the Eagles has come to an end.

According to an article by Jeff McLane on “In December, the Eagles and Akers talked about a contract extension.  The team offered a deal that would have made him one of the five highest-paid kickers in the NFL, but Akers passed, according to league sources.” After Akers declined that offer the Eagles probably knew he wouldn’t be an Eagle next season. Then his poor performance against Green Bay in the playoffs, missing 2 out 3 field goals made any chance of a return seem to fade.  I know Akers had a lot more then football on his mind in that game and rightfully so, but as Andy said following the game “We can all count…Those points would have helped.”  When you have been with a team for as long as Akers has, one bad game is not the sole reason a team moves in a new direction. 

The Eagles also tendered Akers the transition tag in February, but Akers never signed it.  The transition tag would have given the Eagle the first right of refusal if another team offered Akers a contract.  Akers refusal to sign the tag seems to stem from not knowing if that tag will apply if and when the labor dispute is ended and a new CBA is put into place. 

By not signing the long term deal offered in December and then by not signing the transition tender, Akers forced the Eagles hand.  The Eagles responded by drafting Alex Henery from the University of Nebraska in the fourth round of Aprils draft.  Henery was the best kicker in college football last season hitting 94.7% of his field goals and he is also a duel threat as a punter.  There are some issues with Henery though, he has never kicked off and he has never kicked in the NFL. 

The Eagles don’t want to use a roster spot on a kickoff specialist but they have carried two kickers in the past.  When Akers first joined the team in 1999 he was the kickoff specialist and veteran Norm Johnson was the field goal kicker.  This lasted one season and Akers took over all of the kicking duties for the 2000 season.  Handing all of the kicking duties to an unproven rookie is a big gamble and the Eagles may want to add a veteran to the roster as a plan B. 

How good is David Akers and how big of a loss will he be?  At 36, Akers may have 3-4 good seasons left in him.  He had one of his better seasons in 2010 and his last three seasons have been a return to form for Akers after a stretch of down seasons from 2005-2007.  Too really look at Akers kicking ability you have to break it down, for his career he has hit an astounding 99% of his field goals from 20-29 yards.  If you compare that with a couple of kickers on his same level, Adam Vinatieri has hit 96.4% and Ryan Longwell has hit 95%.  From 39 yards and in, Akers has hit 93% of his attempts where as Vinatieri has hit 90% and Longwell has hit 91%. 

Of the 8 available veteran free agent kickers this off season, Akers ranks 7th in career filed goal percentage.

  1. Shayne Graham 86.0
  2. Ryan Longwell 83.5
  3. Phil Dawson 83.2
  4. Matt Bryant 82.8
  5. Adam Vinatieri 82.7
  6. Jeff Reed 82.2
  7. David Akers 81.9
  8. Olindo Mare 81.4

For Akers to act surprised that the Eagles drafted a kicker confuses me.  Why should he be surprised?  He is 36 and he turned down not one but two chances to stay with the Eagles organization.  It’s of his own doing that he will be kicking elsewhere next season and he should own up to that.  As a fan I get the feeling that Akers knows this will probably be his last NFL contract and he wants to cash in if he can.  I can’t blame a player for that, it’s a business and anyone would want to get more money if they could.  But Akers needs to own up to that and just say that instead of acting surprised and amazed that the Eagles have moved in a different direction. 

Akers has been a very good kicker for the Eagles for over a decade.  He still has some life left in him, but as risky as it is to turn over the kicking responsibilities to a rookie, it’s inevitable and needs to happen.  This team is young and very talented team and a new kicker will fit into a new era of Eagles football.  Thanks for your services Mr. Akers, but it’s time that the Eagles give you the boot. 

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