The Buffalo Bills have an outstanding kicker. They have an outstanding long snapper. And, they also have a punter. That was happening as they entered the offseason.
During the 2022 NFL Draft, they added a big-legged punter to hopefully complete the “outstanding” trifecta, but he’s never held for field goals and extra points before. Eek. Is that going to be a problem?
In our final installment of our state of the Bills’ roster series, we examine the core specialists.
K Tyler Bass
Contract status: Entering third year of four-year rookie contract ($941,054 cap hit; $92,110 dead cap if cut or traded)
Age: Turned 25 on 2/14/2022
2021 Playing time: 17 games, 182 special teams snaps (42% of team total)
Key 2021 statistics: 28/32 (87.5%) on field goals, 51/51 (100%) on extra points, 1 tackle
Bass hit the same number of field goals as he did in his rookie year, but he did so on two fewer attempts. He is just as accurate from close range as he is long distance, as he’s made six field goals of over 50 yards in his two-year career. As a rookie, Bass had some issues in extra-point range, missing two PAT attempts in addition to three field goal attempts between 30 and 39 yards. He only missed one such field goal this past season. With a booming leg and phenomenal accuracy, Bass is a premier kicker in the league in one of the NFL’s toughest places to kick.
LS Reid Ferguson
Contract status: Entering first year of three-year contract extension ($1.035 million cap hit; $0 dead cap)
Age: Turned 28 on 3/24/2022
2021 Playing time: 17 games, 139 special teams snaps (32% of team total)
Key 2021 statistics: 1 tackle, 0 missed snaps
Ferguson is a savvy, reliable veteran at this point—someone who always puts the ball where it needs to be. It doesn’t hurt that he’s a beloved figure in the locker room, either. While his contract has no guaranteed money, I can’t imagine a scenario where Buffalo releases him at any point over the course of the next three years (unless they are doing it to sneak a guy onto injured reserve before re-signing him, as they have done previously).
P Matt Haack
Contract status: Entering final year of renegotiated deal ($1.485 million cap hit; $700,000 dead cap if cut or traded)
Age: 27 (28 on 7/25/2022)
2021 Playing time: 17 games, 140 special teams snaps (32% of team total)
Key 2021 statistics: 52 punts, 42.9 gross yards per punt, 37.6 net yards per punt, 18 punts inside the 20
Haack came to Buffalo as a free agent, and he did not impress in his first season in Orchard Park. There was some good, though, as only Johnny Hekker of the Los Angeles Rams allowed fewer punt-return yards than Haack did among punters with more than 50 punts. Haack’s punts were returned for just 96 yards on the season, a sign of solid hang time and a great coverage unit. He was second-to-last among qualifiers in net-yards-per-punt average, however, so his boots rarely allowed the Bills to gain much advantage in terms of field position. Haack took a significant pay cut just to stay on the roster.
P Matt Araiza
Contract status: Entering first year of four-year rookie contract
Age: Turned 22 on 5/16/2022
2021 Playing time: 14 games for Arizona State
Key 2021 statistics: 79 punts for 4044 yards (51.2 yards per punt), 45-of-45 extra points, 18-of-28 field goals (64.3%), 4 tackles for Arizona State
PUNT GOD. I’ve never seen this much hype around a punter, but he wasn’t even the first one off the board in April. The biggest knock against Araiza is he’s never held before, as he was Arizona State’s punter AND kicker. That’s a skill he’s been working on since the end of his college season, but there’s going to be a learning curve there. If he can prove his worth in that department, he should have no problem beating out Haack with his leg.
Ferguson and Bass are all set. The punter competition is definitely one to watch at St. John Fisher. It would be a major upset if Araiza isn’t on the 53-man roster.