- Jamison Hensley, ESPN Staff Writer
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This move wasn't a major shock. The Ravens sat Cundiff in Thursday's preseason game and allowed Justin Tucker to handle all the kicking duties. But releasing him is the gutsiest move made by the Ravens this year.
The Ravens go from Cundiff, a Pro Bowl kicker in 2010, to Tucker, an undrafted rookie out of Texas. They go from Cundiff, who has converted 89.9 percent of his kicks inside the 50 over the past two years (53 of 59) and led the NFL in touchbacks, to Tucker, who has never kicked in a regular-season game.
Many Ravens fans will cheer this decision because Cundiff missed a last-minute, 32-yard field goal that would have tied last season's AFC Championship Game. But those same fans will question coach John Harbaugh if Tucker misses a couple of field goals early because of inexperience.
That said, I would have made the same move as the Ravens. I wasn't sure Harbaugh would make the change because of recent history. In 2009, the Ravens chose to go with undrafted Steven Hauschka instead of re-signing veteran Matt Stover. Two months into the season, the Ravens released Hauschka after he missed four field goals, including a would-be game winner at Minnesota. That's how Cundiff ended up with the Ravens' kicking job in the first place.
But releasing Cundiff was the right move, which probably comes as a surprise to Cundiff, who said eight days ago that "this is really a competition with myself." But Cundiff left himself vulnerable, and it goes beyond that monumental miss in New England. He missed 10 field goal attempts last season, converting 75.7 percent of his tries. When you look at Cundiff's track record, the 2011 season was typical for Cundiff, who has a career 76.7 success rate. His Pro Bowl season, in which he connected on nearly 90 percent of his kicks, was the anomaly.
The only thing I question in the Ravens' handling of the kicking situation is not bringing in a veteran kicker to compete with Cundiff. Based on what Cundiff did last season, the Ravens had several reasons to add a more experienced safety net. But Tucker has been "lights-out" this summer, which is how Cundiff described the undrafted kicker in camp. Tucker's leg is very strong. His 53-yard field goal in the last preseason game might have been good from 63 yards.
In the end, the Ravens went with the kicker who performed the best in camp. They also went with the one who will save them $1.8 million in salary-cap room. Now, Tucker has to hold up his end in the deal and prove the Ravens made the right decision.