Over the years, the New York Jets have had somewhat of a merry-go-round at kicker. Highlighting that, the Jets used 7 different kickers between just the 2019 and 2021 seasons, including the likes of Eddy Pineiro, Matt Amendola, Sam “Kickin’” Ficken, and allegedly some guy named Alex Kessman who had completely escaped even the furthest depths of my memory.
Since then, the Jets have stabilized the kicker position, using former Los Angeles Rams and Dallas Cowboys kicker Greg “The Leg” Zuerlein for the entirely of the 2022 season before bringing him back for the 2023 season on a 1 year, 2.6 million dollar contract with 1.25 million dollars guaranteed. As far as kicker contracts go, it is a short commitment (only one year) with a pretty middle ground cap hit for a kicker (2.6 million per year is around 15th in the league among kickers). This is in line with Zuerlein’s performance, which PFF ranked as 16th best in the league on field goals and 3rd best in the league on kickoffs.
So overall, the Jets have a pretty middle ground kicker on a pretty middle ground contract. But is that really a wise use of resources for a team in a championship window? Would they not be better off with a top tier kicker who could be most counted on to hit the key kicks when they matter the most (assuming one could be acquired)?
Well, according to the data, yes, this decision to “settle” for a rather cheap kicker may be rather prudent.
even if we credited all the variance to the kicker himself, the difference between a fringe top 5 kicker and a fringe bottom 5 kicker is something like three missed field goals per year, after accounting for situation— Cowboys Stats & Graphics (@CowboysStats) August 7, 2023
that usually amounts to ~0.3 wins https://t.co/PPco0Vqy3Z
More specifically, according to Daniel Houston of Cowboys Stats and Graphics (@CowboysStats on Twitter/X), after accounting for game conditions, the difference between a top 5 kicker and a decent kicker (i.e., is of NFL quality but isn’t very good) is only .3 wins; this is basically 0 in the grand scheme of a 17 game season. Long story short, this implies merely having a serviceable NFL veteran at kicker is adequate, whereas spending a significant amount of cap space on a more highly regarded kicker may be a poor use of resources. For the Jets, this means that Greg Zuerlein is a perfect man for the job within the Jets 2023 season as they aim to end their playoff and Super Bowl drought.
Do you feel confident with Greg Zuerlein at kicker for the 2023 Jets?
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