The Minnesota Vikings released veteran kicker Ryan Longwell today and already the cries have started from some in Steeler Nation suggesting that that the Pittsburgh Steelers should sign the 15 year veteran.
Longwell has spent the last six years in Minnesota and he has a career field goal percentage of 83.2. Last season he connected on just 78.6 percent of his attempts and that included going 0-3 outdoors from 40 yards and out.
In addition to his problems kicking outdoors last season, Longwell was also not impressive on his kickoffs either. NFL.com has Longwell documented as only having 19 touchbacks in 2011 on 77 kickoffs with his average distance coming in at a paltry 64.6 yards per kick. Keep in mind that 10 of the 16 games that Longwell kicked in last season were indoors as well.
The Steelers current incumbent is Shaun Suisham, who connected on just 74.2% of his own attempts in 2011 during the regular season. He was just 7 of 13 outside of 40 yards, but did have 28 touchbacks out of 72 kickoffs last season. His average kickoff distance was 66.5 yards, which was not great, but better than that of Longwell.
While Longwell certainly is attractive when you look at his name alone, he is way past his kicking prime now and certainly would not be a huge upgrade over Suisham at this point.
Suisham signed a four-year contract prior to the start of the 2011 season and the deal included a $1.35 signing bonus. That contract still gives him no reason to feel safe though as the Steelers could cut him any time after June 1st and take a dead money hit of $337,500 in 2012 and a $675,000 dead money hit in 2013. Basically they would save $1.35 million in cap space in 2012 minus his replacement cost.
A veteran such as Longwell would cost the Steelers a minimum of $910,000 should he sign a qualifying veteran one-year deal. That deal would come with a cap hit of $540,000 plus whatever signing bonus he were to receive, which would not exceed $65,000 on that type of contract.
As you can see, the Steelers would only save roughly $760,000 in cap space by trading one average kicker for an even older average one. They also would be saddled with a $675,000 dead money hit in 2013 to boot. (Sorry for that pun. I couldn\’t resist)
While 2011 might have just been a down year for the nearly 38-year old Longwell, he is a mighty risky free agent add based on his age and downward trend. Should the Steelers ultimately decide they are unhappy with Suisham by the start of the 2012 season, there will be plenty of free agents to choose from after the final roster cut downs take place.
The Steelers did sign undrafted kicker Grant Ressel to push Suisham in camp, but even Ressel had his problems in his final season at Missouri as he was 9 of 16 on the season. Ressel missed the final five games of 2011 with a strained hip flexor and some speculate that might have been the root of his accuracy problem early in the season after having a stellar 2009 and 2010 season.