Many were confused when the Los Angeles Chargers’ management decided that Drew Kaser was the problem in the kicking game and replaced him with Donnie Jones.
The Jones signing has not been effective, so what should the Chargers do now about the punting situation?
These statistics support the case that the Chargers need a new punter – according to ESPN, the Chargers dropped from third in punting yards average with 48.1 yards per kick to last with 42.3 yards per kick from 2017 (Kaser) to 2018 (Jones) in gross punting average.
To a lesser extent, Kaser also did better than Jones in terms of percentage of kicks inside the 20 (36.5 percent vs. 31.9 percent) and net punting average (41.3 yds per kick vs. 38.0 yds perkick).
The main thing Jones has going for him is his cost, special teams leadership ability, and the fact that his mistakes are so lovable.
Besides these facts, it seems like the Bolts should move on from Jones. But to what extent is it worth it to invest cap space or a draft pick in a punter?
If you are interested in the use of advanced statistics that demonstrate the value of punters, I would encourage you to read this article. Instead, I will focus on the opportunity cost (the alternative option that is not taken) of paying up for or drafting a punter to decide how much the Chargers should invest in a punter this offseason.
In free agency, players are often more expensive due to bidding between teams. This can also be true in the punting market, particularly for the best players.
Last year, Dustin Colquitt and Kevin Huber got paydays from the Kansas City Chiefs and Cincinnati Bengals, respectively. Each is now paid near $2.5 million in base salary each year. Compared to Donnie Jones’s contract, that is about $1.5 million more.
That $1.5 million is enough for a low-tier free agent (with a $1.5 million contract, former Charger Tre Boston fits this bill), or the money can be used to help entice a big name free-agent. Is it really worth it to use that money to get one or two yards more in net yards per kick each year? I would say no.
How about the cheaper options on the market?
Among a few are Jordan Berry, Pat O’Donnell, and, if the Chargers desperately want a cheap option, Jones. While his kicks didn’t set the world ablaze, Jones generally was reliable when needed. Berry and O’Donnell are also veterans from good teams that are reliable and unlikely to be phased by pressure. Plus, O’Donnell likes to use Twitter to do trick shots for fans.
However, the opportunity cost for drafting a punter is the loss of a draft pick. Fortunately, these are typically late (fifth to seventh) round picks.
However, take a look at the contract of the rookie punters, and you will find that if a punter is drafted and turns into a starter, that team just got a steal of a contract for four years.
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As an example, Scott’s contract is valued at about $700,000 a year, even lower than that of Jones. Scott is locked into this contract for four years. Thus, the Green Bay Packers got a starting punter on a low contract for that entire term for the cost of a compensatory fifth-round pick (that could be recouped if he leaves at a relatively high price in free agency).
One can argue that this cheap rookie contract (via the pick) could be used on getting cheap depth at another position. However, it is relatively easy to get cheap veteran depth at other positions. It is difficult to get a starting quality punter in free agency on a contract this cheap.
Verdict: Draft a punter in the fifth to seventh round if one seems like a viable starter. If not, sign a cheap, reliable veteran like Jones and bring in an undrafted rookie as preseason competition.
Agree with me? Disagree? Do you think punters are more important than quarterbacks? Leave your opinion in the comment section below!