Whenever Dan Carpenter attempted a kick for the Buffalo Bills last year, it was cause for trepidation. Between the missed extra points, missed field goals, and his inability to be even an average kickoff specialist, it was a fairly easy decision to cut ties with him prior to the start of free agency in March.
Will the kicker they signed to replace him improve on those faults? The short answer is yes...and no.
Name: Stephen Hauschka
Height/Weight: 6’4”, 210 lbs.
College: NC State
Draft: UDFA (2008)
Financial Situation (per Spotrac): Hauschka is on a three-year deal that will pay him a little less than $9 million, with $4 million guaranteed. He’s counting $2.6 million against the cap this year, a figure that rises to $3 million next year and $3.25 million in the final year of the contract.
2016 Recap: Hauschka played out his sixth season with the Seattle Seahawks, converting 33 of 37 field goal tried along with 29 of 35 extra points. The six extra point misses tied with Mike Nugent of the Bengals for most in the NFL, one more than Carpenter’s five. Hauschka was the only kicker last season to hit on a greater percentage of his field goal tries (89.2%) than his extra point tries (82.9%) among kickers with at least 15 attempts of each kick.
Positional Outlook: While undrafted rookie punter Austin Rehkow has been seeing some reps as a kicker, there’s no real chance that the Bills are going to cut Hauschka before the season begins. They’re already dealing with dead money from one kicker, and Hauschka was signed after Sean McDermott took over coaching duties. There may be competition for the primary kickoff specialist, but (barring injury) Hauschka is going to be handling all of the kicks for points this year.
2017 Offseason: Hauschka signed with the Bills at the onset of free agency in March. While Rehkow has seen some action as a kicker, there hasn’t been any competition to speak of.
2017 Season Outlook: There are legitimate questions around Hauschka’s ability to handle extra points, something that plagued Carpenter after the rule was enacted to move them back 15 yards. That said, he’s significantly better on regular field goal tries and he has the ability to reliably handle kickoff duties. Even if he hits extra points at the same rate, he’ll be a noticeable improvement from Carpenter.