When the ball misses wide
Like a kicker denied
There are few players this season more deserving of ridicule on the Panthers roster than veteran kicker Olindo Mare. He was everything you would want out of a kicker, except for that whole hitting field goals part. Moreover, Carolina spent a pretty penny to bring in one guy who could handle kickoff duty and field goal duty. Granted, Olindo managed to kick the ball off well in 2011, but the most important part of his job was botched.
Monday's franchise tag deadline highlighted just the problem the Panthers are facing with their need for a kicker. I'll look at this, and how they can solve the problem...
After the jump
There are 5, count 'em 5 franchise kickers
By the league deadline of 4PM Monday 5/21 franchise tags were used on kickers, while just three defensive ends were tagged; did you see that one coming? The problem is that there is a dearth of talent in the form of incoming kickers. As it stands we're only seeing 1-2 good new kickers arriving in the NFL every 2-3 years. This has caused a huge vacuum at the position where players either have the mental makeup needed, but not the leg, or vice versa.
The 2012 draft is no different. Randy Bullock out of Texas A&M is regarded as the best of the bunch, but even then he's earning UDFA grades at best. There's no doubt the Panthers need to get a long term answer at kicker that isn't Mare, but those five franchise tags tell you how little available talent there is at the position.
John Kasay isn't the answer
Trust me, I love John Kasay as much as the next Panthers fan, but it's time to put this one to rest. Yes, Kasay gave us amazing reliability and great clutch kicking but that ship really has sailed. In order to bring back Kasay we'd need to keep Ali Kunalic on the roster to be a KoS, and that in turn takes a valuable roster spot from a pass rusher or receiver.
Furthermore, a convenient stat that is often glossed over in the 'bring back Kasay' argument is that he missed 6 field goals himself for the Saints in 2011 (the same number as Mare).
Adi Kunalic really isn't the answer
I've got to admit, I really love a good underdog story. That being said, I think we probably need to put this puppy to sleep. Not every UDFA turns into Wes Welker, and the same for Kunalic applies. Sure, he was retained to send a message to Mare to get himself together, but you're kidding yourself if you think he's really viewed as a long term option as a kicker.
In many ways Kunalic is the same as Rhys Lloyd, and there was good reason Lloyd wasn't asked to kick FGs- he couldn't. Guys with big legs often don't have accuracy to pair with it, and this is the case with Kunalic. Lets remember that he wasn't even the primary FG kicker at Nebraska where he was a KoS- so why would he magically become an accurate kicker now?
What do the Panthers do from here?
Like most things on this team: They wait.
Building through the draft is an arduous task, but in the end the results speak for themselves. Carolina will need to bide their time and wait for the next Mason Crosby or Connor Barth to enter the draft and based on what we're seeing there could be some decent options in 2013 for a kicker.
Until then all we can do is hope that BAMF ends the shank-fest from Mare and helps set him straight.