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Friday, July 1, 2011
Free agency in the East: Kickers/Punters

By Dan Graziano
ESPN.com

I asked, and the consensus answer was something like, "Sure, why not?" And so we conclude our position-by-position series on potential four-year free agency and the NFC East with a look at kickers and punters. Yeah, even with content hard to come by these days, I couldn't justify splitting them into two posts.

NFC East teams in need

Cowboys: They're set at punter with Mat McBriar, but while they're obviously invested in kicker David Buehler, they brought in veteran Kris Brown to see if they could put some pressure on Buehler to be better. The new kickoff rules could make Buehler's saving grace -- his ability to drill touchbacks on kickoffs -- less valuable than it used to be, which means making field goals is the only way he's going to keep his job. If he flops badly, it's possible Dallas looks at someone on this list since Brown likely isn't the answer either.

Giants: Set at kicker with Lawrence Tynes, and committed to Matt Dodge at punter but you wonder for how long. Following Jeff Feagles was never going to be an easy assignment, but as big as Dodge's leg is, his directional gaffes last year were too much for the Giants and their fans to stomach. Not kicking the ball out of bounds against DeSean Jackson and the Eagles in that Meadowlands game wasn't the first mistake -- just the worst and least forgettable. Dodge is likely to start the season with the job, but the Giants might want to keep their eye on this list in case they need to make a midseason move.

Eagles: Situation very much in flux in Philly, where they drafted kicker Alex Henery, likely signaling the end of the Eagles career of the great David Akers. Punter Sav Rocca, is also a free agent and could decide to retire rather than punt again at the age of 38. Bet on the Eagles going with Henery at kicker and bringing back Rocca on a one-year deal, but if Rocca won't have it, they'll need to go shopping.

Redskins: Well, they have guys at both spots. But Graham Gano is coming off a bad year as the kicker, and they could theoretically look to replace him. They have two punters on the roster -- Josh Bidwell and Sam Paulescu -- so they should be able to come up with something out of that.

Top five potential free-agent kickers

1. Adam Vinatieri, Colts

2. Ryan Longwell, Vikings

3. Akers

4. Matt Bryant, Falcons

5. Shayne Graham, Patriots

Top five potential free-agent punters

1. Adam Podlesh, Jaguars

2. Ben Graham, Cardinals

3. Steve Weatherford, Jets

4. Rocca

5. Michael Koenen, Falcons

Predictions that mean nothing: At least three of these teams will change kickers and/or punters between now and the end of the 2011 season, but I'm not saying which because kickers and punters are totally unpredictable. Akers leaves the division, though, I predict, though Dallas fans might wish their team would snag him.