Buffalo Bills kicker Stephen Hauschka had a poor end to his 2018 campaign after taking a cheap shot from New York Jets defender Henry Anderson. Anderson was fined, but after the injury, Hauschka was leaving kicks uncharacteristically short and his accuracy plummeted.
In the last installment of our series looking at possible Bills roster cuts, we take a look at the possibility of moving on from Hauschka, replacement options, and more before letting you vote on what you want to do.
The most important measure of a kicker is accuracy and that’s where we begin our dive. Stephen Hauschka hit 78.6% of his field goal attempts in 2018. For the fraction lovers that’s just a touch better than 3/4. For Hauschka this is his worst accuracy since 2009 when he was with the Baltimore Ravens. After that season he was picked up by the Seattle Seahawks and hadn’t fallen below 83% until 2018. Interestingly, Hauschka was also asked to do less, attempting a field goal only 28 times. This was his lowest total since 2012.
Compared to his peers (kickers with 10 or more attempts), Hauschka doesn’t stack up any better than he does against his past self. Hauschka’s 78.6% has him all the way at number 28 in the league. League average was about 84% and the league leader (Robbie Gould) broke 97%.
As noted above, with a data set that includes 28 attempts, a short stretch of bad kicking can have disastrous results. The hip injury suffered against the Jets in Week 14 stands out as a potential event that could cause such a stretch.
Splitting the season into pre- and post-injury we see a clear division in performance. Prior to the injury, Hauschka hit 86% of his field goals, which is slightly above average. That rating would have had him ranked 16th in the league. After the injury it dove to 57% which would have been the worst of the 35 qualifying kickers.
The relationship between a kicker and his holder is an important one and Stephen Hauschka had a rotating cast to help him out this season. Matt Darr was picked up and played in the last five games. Let’s see if this event reveals anything fun.
Using the pre- and post-Darr splits, we shift backwards by one-and-a-half games. We also get a very intriguing result. Prior to signing Matt Darr, Stephen Hauschka hit 94% of his field goals, which would have been good for fourth-best in the league if he had been able to maintain that success rate. Post-Darr is even worse than the post-injury split at 55%.
Playing devil’s advocate, between the injury and Matt Darr events, there is a difference of two missed kicks on four attempts. One of which (Miami Dolphins) was a 55-yard “not-a-gimme” try. The other was a blocked attempt right before the cheap shot that injured Hauschka versus the Jets. On the other hand, in the Miami game, Hauschka also had his only failed extra point attempt the entire season (Darr’s first game).
However, if the Bills do decide to move on from Hauschka, the salary cap lost and gained is minimal.
Here are Hauschka’s salary cap details via Spotrac:
2019 cap hit: $3.25 million
Salary due: $2 million
Roster bonus: $250,000 due 3/17/19
Cap savings if cut before roster bonus: $2.25 million
Cap savings if cut after roster bonus: $2 million
Dead money if cut before roster bonus: $1 million
Dead money if cut after roster bonus: $1.25 million
Hauschka turns 34 in June, but kickers can last a whole lot longer than anyone else due to the lack of contact at the position (well, except for when 300-pound defensive linemen decide to level them). A fair extension for Hauschka would be worth exploring, as his leg strength and accuracy when healthy are both huge bonuses for a team that should be on its way up in 2019 and beyond. Signing him for two to three years would make sense for both sides.
If you’re going to cut a great kicker, you might as well sign the guy thought by many to be the best in the league. The New England Patriots have employed the 35-year old Gostkowski since 2006, and he has been fantastic each year. Gostkowski has nailed 87.4% of his career field goals, including 25-of-35 kicks from beyond 50 yards in his career.
After a dismal 2017 season that saw him released after six games, Myers had a huge comeback season in 2018 with the New York Jets. He made the AFC Pro Bowl squad on the strength of a 33-for-36 campaign, including a fantastic 6-for-7 mark on field goals over 50 yards. Caution: Myers has never made more than 80% of his field goals in two consecutive NFL seasons.
A restricted free agent, the New Orleans Saints will almost certainly choose to tender Lutz; at what level they choose to do so is the real question. Lutz entered the league as an undrafted free agent in 2016, and he’s made 87% of his kicks in the comfortable confines of the Superdome. If you’re worried about him kicking poorly outdoors, however, there’s no need to fear: Lutz has made 52-of-60 kicks in a dome, and he’s made 32-of-37 kicks outdoors.
Tracy didn’t miss an extra point this past season for LSU and made 29-of-33 field goals. His highlight game came against the Georgia Bulldogs, where he went 5-of-5 on mostly middle-range field goals. He also made both of his field goals during the Senior Bowl, including a long of 43. He has a chance to be selected in the draft. Gay went 26-of-31 for the Utes in 2018 and has never missed an extra point in his career. He’s accustomed to attempting long field goals, going 8-of–11 from 50+ yards in his career. Gay also helped his cause by nailing a 47-yarder in the East-West Shrine game in January.
Austin Seibert (Oklahoma)
A combination punter and kicker, Seibert’s kicking ability is decent from middle-range, but he has only attempted three kicks longer than 50 yards—going 1-of-3 in the process. Seibert had a poor Senior Bowl, missing a 44-yard field goal and only converting two very short kicks.
Now it’s your turn to vote. What do you want to do with Stephen Hauschka this offseason?
What do you want to do with Stephen Hauschka this offseason?
This poll is closed
Keep him for the last year of his deal
Keep him, sign him to a contract extension
Sign a free agent kicker
Draft a top kicker