In the weeks leading up to the start of Buffalo Bills training camp, Buffalo Rumblings will be taking a look at the ten most intriguing positional battles set to take place at St. John Fisher this summer. Previous entries in this series can be found in our training camp section.
Buffalo Bills punter Brian Moorman has been an institution for the franchise for the last 11 seasons. A fan favorite thanks to his booming punts, his trick-play-worthy athleticism and his community endeavors, Moorman has been one of the NFL's best punters in that time frame, with two Pro Bowls and two first-team All-Pro selections to back that claim.
As Aaron Lowinger wrote last week, however, there is ample evidence that Moorman, 36, is "in decline" - despite the fact that he set a career high with a 48.2-yard gross punting average in 2011. Coming in to compete with the veteran this summer: a consensus first-team All-American rookie.
Shawn Powell, who comes to the Bills via Florida State, is a big kid with a big leg. The 6'4", 235-pound undrafted free agent rookie had an outstanding senior season in 2011, collecting those aforementioned All-American honors after averaging 47 yards per punt and downing 23 punts inside the 20-yard line, with 14 of those stopping inside the 10-yard line.
Still not convinced? Powell never had a punt blocked at Florida State. His 41.2-yard net average was second in the nation in 2011. He had 24 of his 57 punts carry 50 or more yards last year, with six of those punts carrying 60 or more yards. Make no mistake about it, Bills fans: Powell is a talented punter and a legitimate threat to Moorman's long-standing spot in Buffalo.
Complicating matters a bit further for Moorman is the fact that he's entering the final year of the lucrative six-year, $10 million contract he signed back in 2007. He's due to make $1.425 million in base salary this year, meaning that the Bills could save around $1 million if Powell beats the veteran out for the job. The amount of money that the Bills have spent this off-season allays any concerns that the team is penny-pinching, but if a younger, higher-upside player performs well and can also save you a cool million, that's nothing less than a bonus.
Still, we're talking about Brian Moorman here. Even though he's clearly not the punter that he once was, he's still a pretty darn good punter - and it's going to take a very strong effort from Powell this summer to out-play the veteran. But for the first time since his first couple of years with the organization a decade ago, Moorman's job security with the Bills seems noticeably less than the 100 percent fans are accustomed to.