Finding a reliable kicker has recently become rather difficult for NFL teams other than the Baltimore Ravens, who are blessed with Justin Tucker. Since the NFL changed the extra point rules in 2015, forcing kickers to make a 33-yard attempt instead of a 15-yard chip shot following touchdowns, players who can consistently hit both the PAT and keep their wits about them on actual field goals have been in short supply.
This was clear yet again in Week 1 of the 2020 season. Before I rattle off all the stats, it is entirely possible that kickers were affected more than other players by the shortened training camp due to COVID-19. Kicking is all about routine, and it is easy to imagine that everyone's routine was thrown off by quarantine and then less practice time than normal.
However, Week 1 was not good. In total, 15 kickers missed at least one field goal this weekend. Three of those kickers missed at least two, and new Tennessee Titans kicker Stephen Gostowski missed three (before hitting the game-winner). Five missed an extra point try. The Cleveland Browns released Austin Seifert on Monday, one day after he missed his only field goal attempt and his one extra point try. Even the New England Patriots, who seemingly have been blessed with consistent kicking for the entire century, had Nick Folk miss a field goal on Sunday.
This naturally leads the mind to wonder when someone will call up Adam Vinateri. Vinateri is currently a free agent at age 47 and has yet to officially announce his retirement, even though we've been expecting that for, like, eight or so years now. Most NFL teams who are willing to shuffle through kickers to find a solution will probably be leaving the future Hall of Famer as a last resort, though, because Vinateri was not very good last year.
He missed eight field goals and six PATs in 2019. It turns out Father Time does indeed come for us all at some point, even seemingly immortal players like Vinateri. But Vinateri's leg strength hasn't deteriorated to the point where he can't kick 50-yarders anymore. Like with everything else about kickers, it's all mental. If Vinateri found his groove again (in whatever manner kickers go about doing that) he could prove to be a valuable addition at some point to some team.
He could also be washed. That certainly appeared to be the case last year. But there's nothing more back-breaking than getting a good drive going and coming away with no points because your kicker can't knock down a field goal. Teams know this better than we fans do, and will be shuffling through every option to find an answer if they feel like their guy isn't up to snuff. Given the strange circumstances to start the season, it feels likely the Browns will be the only team to jettison their kicker after only one week.
But if a similar percentage of kicks are missed in the next few weeks, expect teams to start exhausting every possibility to solve the issue. Vinateri will definitely be one of those possibilities. It's a matter of when, not if, someone gives him a call. What happens after that is anyone's guess.