Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Unlike rest of East, Pats won't have camp kickoff


For those who missed it, the New England Patriots were the first of the four AFC East teams to cut its respective rookie kicker, releasing former Notre Dame standout David Ruffer late last week. (photo: Keith Allison, Flickr)

The move freed up a roster spot, but more importantly, it likely once again left veteran Stephen Gostkowski in a uncontested race for the starting job.

Now in his eighth NFL season, Gostkowski is getting paid accordingly — he's in the middle of a five-year deal signed back in 2010 worth north of $15 million. And while his make percentage wasn't jaw dropping in 2012 (82.9), his points made up for it, as he tallied the most in his career and nearly the most in franchise history with 153.

So while Gostkowski renews his cable subscription for another year, things aren't looking so cheery for last year's three other starters in the division.

Coming off an injury in 2012, Miami's Dan Carpenter looks to be the most in danger of losing his starting gig. The six-year vet has put up rough numbers the past few years and is set to make even more money than Gostkowski this season.

The Dolphins made it emphatically clear they were going to make Carpenter work for the job this summer when they selected former Gator Caleb Sturgis in the fifth round of the draft. Sturgis has reportedly looked good thus far, too.

New York's Nick Folk, who had the worst percentage of all four kickers in the division last season (78 percent) and had 80 percent of his kickoffs returned, isn't promised his old gig, either. Folk won the job during training camp last season and signed a one-year deal in March worth almost $800,000.

He's likely to face stiff competition in camp, going against former Husker Brett Maher. Maher had 109 points in 2012 for Nebraska, though he finished the year with a 74 percent field goal percentage.

Lastly, there's Buffalo's Rian Lindell, who on paper looks the least likely to be packing his bags after making 88 percent of his kicks last season. As we noted earlier this offseason, however, Lindell isn't known for his distance, which has played a factor in the team's strategy both on fourth down and in the kickoff department.

To battle the the 14-year vet, the Bills brought in former Seminole Dustin Hopkins via the sixth round of the draft. The rookie has shown promise in his work in OTAs and mini camp, though Lindell has been the more accurate boot.

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