A Folk Tale

Bob Levey

The strange case of kicker Nick Folk, who has performed progressively worse as a Jet, yet gotten progressively more job security.

Nick Folk leads a charmed life with the NY Jets. He has consistently been among the worst kickers in football statistically during his Jets tenure. His performance relative to the rest of the league's kickers has gotten worse as time has gone on. Yet somehow he not only retains his job every year, he has actually gotten more secure.

According to overthecap.com, Nick Folk signed a contract in 2013 for a cap figure of $620,000. Of that figure, approximately $450,000 would be dead money if he were cut or traded. The Jets would achieve cap savings of approximately $170,000 if he were cut or traded. Meaning it is considerably more cap friendly to keep Folk than to cut him, since cutting him would only save $170,000 while forcing the Jets to sign another kicker for at least a league minimum contract of about $500,000. In other words, cutting Folk and signing another kicker would result in a net cap hit of at least $300,000 or so. It is for this reason that talk of any competition at the kicker spot is a bit misleading. Folk goes into any such competition with a substantial advantage. Only a kicker who outplays Folk by a wide margin would have an opportunity to oust him, since doing so would cost the Jets cap space.

Contrast this situation with a few of the other one year deals GM John Idzik doled out this offseason. Starting right tackle Austin Howard would save the Jets about $2 million in cap space if cut. Starting guard Willie Colon would save the Jets about $1.2 million. Starting tight end Jeff Cumberland? $1.3 million. All of these players are starters at far more important positions than kicker. Yet all are cap friendly deals in which there is actually pressure on the incumbent to perform or be replaced by a cheaper alternative. In contrast, it is literally impossible for the Jets to replace Folk with a cheaper alternative by the structure of his 2013 contract. Very strange indeed.

So what has Folk done to earn such job security? Basically, he has been one of the worst kickers in the NFL for three years running. Consider the following statistics (all numbers are the rank among starting NFL kickers for the applicable year) :

Kickoff Average Yardage

2012 - 23

2011 - 25

2010 - 24

Touchbacks

2012 - 34

2011 - 29

2010 - 21

Field Goal %

2012 - 28

2011 - 26

2010 - 24

As you can see, Folk has not only been consistently amongst the league's worst kickers in every statistical category, he has also gotten progressively worse relative to the rest of the league in both field goal % and touchbacks, while remaining essentially the same in length of kickoffs.

Nick Folk has been a bad kicker. He is among the least accurate kickers in the NFL. He has among the shortest average kickoffs in the NFL. He is among the worst in the NFL at producing touchbacks. In every meaningful category Folk ranks anywhere from bad to downright awful. And he is getting gradually worse. Yet somehow he has managed to negotiate a contract giving him rather substantial job security, requiring any prospective challenger to beat him by a wide margin in training camp in order to unseat him.

What is the explanation for this? Does Folk simply have an incredible agent? Does he use Jedi mind tricks to lull the Jets front office into only looking at him (Folk: "Those are not the kickers you're looking for." Jets: "These are not the kickers we're looking for." Folk: "You do not want those kickers." Jets: "We don't want these kickers." Folk: "Sign the contract." Jets: "We'll sign the contract now." Folk: "Move along." Jets: "Move along. Move along.") Are the Jets just suckers for Folk stories?

I don't know. But I do know that, the GGN Nick Folk Fan Club notwithstanding, the statistics speak for themselves. Nick Folk is a bad NFL kicker, with a good NFL contract. That is a very strange Folk tale indeed.

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