Denver can thank past for Prater's future

July, 2, 2012
7/02/12
2:25
PM ET
The Denver Broncos have secured clutch kicker Matt Prater for the next four years.

This was the right move. Prater has one of the better legs in the NFL and he is a top weapon. As the Broncos celebrate keeping Prater, who they gave the franchise tag to, they should salute former head coach Mike Shanahan and former special teams coach Scott O’Brien.

Shanahan and O’Brien had the foresight to develop Prater. The Broncos raised eyebrows in the organization late in the 2007 season when they signed Prater off Miami’s practice squad as a developmental player even though legendary kicker Jason Elam was still on the team. Yet, Elam was a free agent the next offseason and the Broncos wanted to see if it was worth going with the young Prater and letting Elam walk.

That’s exactly what happened and it proved to be the right move. That is no knock on Elam. He was a great Bronco, on and off the field. But knowing when to move away from aging players is a tricky proposition in the sports. It is not always handled the correct way.

The Broncos made the right call in this case, O’Brien loved Prater’s makeup and Shanahan trusted his assistant.

Prater has been sensational as a Bronco. He seems to be getting better each year. He has converted more than 80 percent of his field goal attempts (90-of-112 / 80.4%) in five seasons. The key to Prater’s game is his confidence. He has made 28-of-29 fields goals attempted in the fourth quarter or overtime. He had four game-winning field goals, three in overtime and one as time expired, in 2011.

He has a monster leg. Prater has the highest field goal percentage from 50-plus yards in NFL history. He has made 12-of-16 career attempts in that range. Plus, Prater led the NFL in touchback percentage on kickoffs in 2011.

The Broncos are in good shape moving forward with Prater and they have the Shanahan era to thank for it.

Bill Williamson | email

ESPN San Francisco 49ers reporter

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