The Buffalo Bills had a great holder and a poor punter last season. The problem with that comes when the player is bad at his primary job while being great at the secondary one. When the general manager publicly admits that the team would have moved on if they had someone else to hold on field goals and extra points, you know your job is in jeopardy.
That jeopardy becomes more apparent when the team drafts a player who lines up at your position, and it’s even more apparent when the position you play isn’t one where teams typically spend draft choices. All of this points to trouble for the incumbent. Sprinkle in tons of hype for the new guy, and the signs indicate that change is coming.
In today’s installment of “90 players in 90 days,” we discuss Buffalo’s rookie punter.
Name: Matt Araiza
Height/Weight: 6’2” 200 lbs
Age: 22 (23 on 5/16/2023)
Experience/Draft: R; selected in the sixth round (No. 180 overall) of the 2022 NFL Draft by Buffalo
College: San Diego State
Acquired: Sixth-round draft choice
Financial situation (per Spotrac): Araiza signed his rookie contract, a four-year pact that pays him $3,876,148 overall. For the 2022 season, Araiza carries a cap hit of $759,037 if he makes the team, and a dead-cap charge of $216,148 if he’s released or traded. That dead-cap figure represents the total guarantees in the deal.
2021 Recap: Araiza completed his senior season at San Diego State in style, winning a host of awards. The whole list can be found here, but some sure highlights are the Ray Guy award given to the nation’s best punter, The Action Network Special Teams Player of the Year, NCAA Unanimous All American, All-Mountain West First-Team punter and All-Mountain West Second-Team kicker, and All-academic honors for the third straight year. He was named First-Team All-American in 16 different publications. Araiza was 18-of-28 on field goal attempts, hitting a long of 53 yards. He punted 79 times, averaging 51.2 yards per punt. 37 of his attempts were inside the 20, and 39 of his attempts went for 50 yards or more. He had 17 punts fair caught and hit 15 touchbacks. On kickoffs, he hit touchbacks on 62 of his 73 tries. In short, Araiza has ridiculous leg strength.
Positional outlook: Araiza and Matt Haack will duel for punting supremacy this summer, but they’ll also face off in a competition to be the primary holder for Tyler Bass.
2022 Offseason: Araiza has been at all offseason workouts to date.
2022 Season outlook: Just as was the case when the Bills drafted Bass with veteran Stephen Hauschka on the roster, this feels like a time when Buffalo is already prepared to move on from its tenured veteran. Haack was not good last year, and those struggles definitely impacted the field position battle. Araiza has the leg strength to punt through the swirling winds in Highmark Stadium, and if he can master the art of holding kicks, he’s going to make the team. In this battle of Matts, it’s Araiza who will probably end up sticking around for the 2022 season and beyond.