As you’ve likely heard by now, the Green Bay Packers signed undrafted free agent rookie kicker Zachary Ramirez on Sunday.
What it means is that in the hotly contested battle of the kickers, the plot has now thickened.
The Pioneer Press reports that Ramirez came in simply for a tryout, but apparently was so impressive that the team signed him to a contract on the spot. How impressive? Well, in a kicking competition that was the Sunday practice closer, Ramirez went 10 of 11, missing only from 53 yards. Not bad, eh?
Well, guess what? Incumbent Mason Crosby also went 10 of 11, missing from 53, while Giorgio Tavecchio went 9 of 11, missing from 45 and 63 yards. So, basically, nothing has been settled, and we are now looking at a three-way battle, with just one preseason game left and less than two weeks to go before the start of the regular season.
If it sounds like a mess, well, I’m not so sure it necessarily is. I had already predicted last week that one of the surprise final 53 players on the roster would be someone we didn’t even know yet in the form of a placekicker. After Crosby missed 3 of 4 in last Wednesday’s practice, I have to believe the Packers coaches and (more importantly) the front-office brass saw the same Crosby from last year, the guy who would maddeningly miss several kicks in a row for no apparent reason.
Which is to say, even though Crosby may have been in a good head space on Sunday, he may not be two Sundays from now when it matters. He proved that last year. And let’s not forget that prior to his solid 2011, he wasn’t exactly the most consistent guy in the NFL; he missed at least six kicks each of his first four seasons, and missed 12 last year to go just 63.6 percent for the season.
Meanwhile, even though Tavecchio has been consistent and accurate, his leg strength has been a question mark all through camp. That doesn’t seem to be the case with Ramirez who, in a kick-off drill, reportedly booted a ball about 10 to 15 yards out of the back of the end zone.
The bottom line is that if the Packers had truly felt that they had the kicking problem solved with either Crosby or Tavecchio, they’d have never dialed Ramirez’s number. Sprinkle in the fact that GM Ted Thompson would love to have back a little cap room and that Crosby is due to make $3,150,000 this season, and it isn’t a stretch to think change might be in the air. (Note: Roughly half of Mason’s salary would end up being “dead” money against the cap if he is cut, but there would still be a significant savings by signing one of the other kickers.)
It will be interesting to see how the kicks will be distributed in practice this week and in Thursday’s preseason finale against Kansas City. Time is quickly running out in this saga.