Former and current National Football League punters had their day in the sun on August 2, 2014 when all-time great Ray Guy became the first “true punter” to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
It shouldn’t have taken so long for Guy to get the honor he so rightfully deserved. Punters are, contrary to the opinions held by some critics, real football players, athletes who make a significant impact in games each and every NFL Sunday. A good punter has the ability to pin an opposing team back inside of its own 20-yard line, flipping the field and, in turn, making things easier for his own offense.
Here are the 10 highest-paid NFL punters for the 2014 season.
All values from Spotrac
10. Kevin Huber — Cincinnati Bengals: $2.320 million cap hit
Huber had a rough start to his preseason when he had a punt blocked in a contest versus the New York Jets. That one unfortunate moment does not take away from the fact that Huber has one of the strongest legs in the NFL.
Huber has, in three seasons, booted a punt of over 70 yards. His career-longest punt of 75 yards occurred during the 2013 season. Consistency has, however, been an issue for the 29-year-old. His 2013 average of 45.2 yards per kick was far from spectacular when compared with the averages held by the best punters in the NFL last season.
9. Andy Lee — San Francisco 49ers: $2.4 million cap hit
Lee made noise in his rookie season (2004) when he rocketed a punt 81 yards down the field. He then beat that mark in 2008 when he unleashed an 82-yard punt. While those two punts are historically impressive, one could argue that he has been at his best over the past three seasons.
Lee has, since 2011, averaged slightly over 49.0 yards per punt. No punter averaged that mark during the 2013 season. The San Francisco punter was third in the NFL in gross punting average (48.2) last year.
8. Sam Koch — Baltimore Ravens: $2.8 million cap hit
Sam Koch has been a Baltimore lineup mainstay since entering the NFL in 2006. The sixth-round draft selection has appeared in every Ravens regular season game over the past eight years. Due to the fact that the Ravens were not allowed to carry over stats from the old Cleveland Browns team when that franchise was moved to Baltimore by then-owner Art Modell in the mid-90s, Koch currently holds several punting records for the club.
One would do well to ignore Koch’s career gross punting average number. He averaged under 44 yards (43.78) per kick in his first five seasons in the league. Koch has since bumped that average up to 46.5 yards per punt.
7. Pat McAfee — Indianapolis Colts: $2.95 million cap hit
Pat McAfee is, for casual NFL fans who don’t actively follow or read about the Colts on a daily basis, a name recognizable for off-the-field matters. He got himself arrested in 2010 when he was caught swimming in the Central Canal while intoxicated. McAfee was fined by the Colts last January when he Tweeted a rather controversial picture of Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck.
The product of West Virginia who was a punter, placekicker and soccer player while in college is, to his credit, a versatile player. Indianapolis has, in the past, used McAfee on long field goal attempts. The 27-year-old barely missed a 64-yard attempt in a preseason game that took place on August 16.
Here is hoping that he remembers in the future to keep his phone camera turned off while in the locker room.
6. Thomas Morstead — New Orleans Saints: $3.235 million cap hit
Morstead has exceeded the expectations had for him by those within the Saints organization since he was drafted in 2009. He possesses the franchise records for highest gross and net punting averages. In 2012, Morstead possessed an average of 50.1 yards per kick.
That average, however, fell to 46.9 yards last season, his lowest gross punt average since 2010. Morstead possesses a dead money value of $3.2 million as per the terms of his contract, meaning he isn’t going anywhere this fall. That figure drops by $1 million after the 2014 campaign.
T4. Britton Colquitt — Denver Broncos: $3.25 million cap hit
Just call them the “Punting Colquitts.” Britton’s father and uncle both punted in the NFL. His cousin is a punter at Tennessee Tech University. Britton’s brother is currently in the league and will be featured later on in this list.
The Broncos went on a Super Bowl run that saw the club come up one game shy of their ultimate goal, but Colquitt will likely want to improve upon his own stats from a year ago. His 44.5 gross punting average was a career low for the 29-year-old. Colquitt is signed with Denver up through the conclusion of the 2016 regular season.
T4. Michael Koenen — Tampa Bay Buccaneers: $3.25 million cap hit
Koenen’s stats are rather lackluster considering his spot in this list. He averaged under 44 yards per punt every season from 2005 through 2010. The Atlanta Falcons placed the franchise tag on Koenen in 2009 after the punter managed to pin teams inside the 20-yard line only 18 times, and he responded by netting a gross average of 40.7 yards per punt.
Koenen’s best seasons in the league have been with the Bucs after Tampa Bay signed him to a six-year contract that guaranteed him no less than $6.5 million. He averaged over 45 gross yards per punt in 2011 and 2012. That figure fell to 44.2 yards last season.
3. Brandon Fields — Miami Dolphins: $3,586,116 cap hit
Fields has been one of the best punters in the NFL over the past three seasons. He has a gross average of 49.3 yards per punt over that time. Fields was fourth in the NFL in punts inside of the 20-yard line during the 2013 campaign, only two tallies from being atop that list.
Along with being good at his craft, Fields also has a reputation for being a positive influence in the community. He is an active contributor to the NFL’s Play 60 initiative. Fields and his wife Katie host several Play 60 events every year.
2. Dustin Colquitt — Kansas City Chiefs: $3.8 million cap hit
Younger brother Britton was unquestionably on the better team in 2013. That will, as the upcoming regular season looms ahead, likely again be the case this fall. The older brother of the two was the victor of any personal competition they may have been engaged in last season.
Britton’s 2013 stats: 44.5 gross average yards, 23 punts inside the 20-yard line, 35.4 percent of net punts inside of the 20.
Dustin’s stats: 46.0 gross average yards, 35 punts inside the 20-yard line, 40.2 percent of net punts inside of the 20.
1. Mike Scifres — San Diego Chargers: $4.035 million cap hit
Tying up over $4 million of cap space on a punter who touched the football an average of 3.5 times per contest in 2013 is, on paper, a stretch. San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers converted nearly 70 percent (69.5) of his passes last season, and yet the Super Chargers still couldn’t make a run to the AFC Championship Game. Surely, San Diego could better spend that money on a wide receiver or to bolster the team’s defense.
That said, one cannot argue with how accurate Scifres has been throughout his career. He has managed to drop close to 41 (40.9) percent of his punts inside of the 20-yard line throughout his NFL career. In 2013, Scifres had a career-high 53.6 percent of net punts land inside of the 20.