Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Mason Crosby: Supply and Demand

Nobody should have been surprised when Mason Crosby was inked to a new 5-year deal with the Green Bay Packers.  You might have been surprised when you eyeballed the contract details.

According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Crosby's new pact will pay him $14.75 million with $3 million guaranteed.

Crosby, who will turn 27 in September, has spent each of his four NFL seasons with the Packers. He connected on 22-of-28 field goal tries and all 46 point- after attempts for 112 points last season.

The Colorado product has made 107-of-137 field goal attempts and all but one of his PATs over his career. He's also kicked at least two 50-plus yard field goals in each of his four seasons and is 10-of-21 lifetime from at least 50 yards.

Now, I realize we've moved a long ways away from the time that Ron Wolf let Craig Hentrich walk because he couldn't see paying a punter....any punter....a million dollars a year.  Hentrich left and signed a veteran's minimum contract with the Titans, had a twelve-year career post-Packers, and was respected as one of the best at his position.  And yes, he finally got paid his worth with Tennessee.

Meanwhile, the Packers went into a cesspool of punters, a revolving door of mediocrity that finally seemed to come to an end in 2007 when the Packers picked up Jon Ryan...only to cut him two years later and again have indecision at the position until present-day punter Tim Masthay established himself last season.

In other words, kickers and punters are often looked at as interchangeable, dime-a-dozen players...that is, until you don't have a good one on your roster. 

Crosby's statistics are probably best summed up as average.  For all the ballyhoo about the strength of his leg, his long-distance kicks have been below 50% for his career.  At the end of the 2009 season, special teams coach Shawn Slocum decided to, mid-season, completely break his kicking mechanics down to square one.  Last year in training camp, interventions to his kicking style began all over again.

His 2010 campaign was, at least, an improvement over the drama from the end of 2009 and the 2010 offseason.  However, he finished with a field goal percentage of 78.6%, right around his career average and has never hit that elusive 80% mark, a Mendoza Line of sorts for kickers.   That percentage placed him 30th overall in the NFL last year during the regular season.  His 50% percentage from 50+ yards ranked him in a tie for 17th overall.

In other words, when it comes to kicking field goals, we're still working on the theory that Crosby is still a work in progress and is going to eventually develop into the kicker we felt we drafted...because his stats don't back up a contract that places him in the top five kickers in the NFL.

But, we go back to the punters.  Thompson already went through this once with Jon Ryan, thinking he could find something better on the waiver wire and brought in Derrick Frost to replace him.  While this isn't the time in Thompson's career to be throwing poo towards him for his prior mistakes, you can't deny that the Frost-over-Ryan move was perhaps one of the most poorly thought-out moves Ted has ever made.

So, you have a stable kicker in Crosby, one still with a world of potential (and you get the feeling with proper coaching, he's start reaching that potential).  What are the other options out there?  Some undrafted rookie like Dan Bailey, who ended up in Cowboys training camp?  Some castoff from another team, like Kris Brown, and hope it isn't Derrick Frost all over again?

The Packers, perhaps moreso than any other team in the NFL, have learned some pretty hard lessons on letting talented specialists go and not having a decent replacement waiting in the wings.  I've been pretty hard on Mason over the past few years (although far rougher with his coach, Shaun Slocum), but recognize this is simply a case of supply and demand.  There's no one out there that you can count on to kick better than Crosby, and when you can't count on a kicker to do better than 75%, you stick with what you know.

The difference is that now we've given Crosby the kind of money that you give kickers who consistently make field goals at a clip in the mid-80's and low-90's.  It's a smart move by Thompson, who has likely learned from his own mistakes, to keep a relatively solid guy in the fold.  By not keeping him at a hometown discount, however, Crosby will have more of a microscope on him over the next few years.

It's up to Slocum and Co. to make Crosby into that kicker we hoped we'd get when we drafted him in the 6th round in 2007.


PackersRS said...

"It's up to Slocum and Co. to make Crosby into that kicker we hoped we'd get when we drafted him in the 6th round in 2007."

So, it's money wasted, is that it?

C.D. Angeli said...

Um...could be, RS. That's a boatload of money to give a 30th-ranked kicker. I like Mason a lot, and think he's been held back by Slocum. But if he doesn't start kicking like he's supposed to, the pressure is going to mount on him. I don't like seeing that because pressure on a kicker is playing with fire.