Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFC South [Print without images]

Tuesday, September 20, 2011
A tale of two punters (and kickoff guys)

By Pat Yasinskas
ESPN.com

Since the Atlanta Falcons play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday it’s time to look at the guys who handle the punting and kickoff duties for both teams.

There’s irony here because the guy who now punts and kicks off for Tampa Bay used to do it for Atlanta. That’s Michael Koenen and he’s having exactly the kind of impact the Bucs imagined when they made him their marquee free-agent signing.

Through two weeks, Koenen is averaging 49.3 yards gross on punts and 45.2 yards net. As a kickoff specialist, five of his nine kicks have gone for touchbacks and opponents are averaging 8.5 yards on returns.

Then, there is Matt Bosher, the sixth-round draft pick who replaced Koenen in Atlanta. Things haven’t started smoothly for Bosher. His gross punting average is 36.8 yards and his net is 35.1 yards. Bosher had an 18-yard punt out of the end zone in Sunday night’s victory against Philadelphia. He’s had only two of his 10 kickoffs go for touchbacks and opponents are averaging 20.8 yards per return.

But those aren’t the only numbers that matter here. There were financial decisions made on both ends about the importance of field position. The Falcons apparently are sticking with Bosher because they did extensive scouting on him and believe he still has potential.

When they drafted him, they knew Bosher might not be as good as Koenen right off the bat. But that’s a sacrifice the Falcons willingly made. They didn’t want to pay Koenen, who once carried the franchise tag, big money.

That’s why the drafted Bosher. He signed a four-year deal that averages $534,000 per season. He’s making $375,000 (the rookie minimum) this year and also received a $95,800 signing bonus.

There’s more irony here because no one ever accuses the Falcons have being cheap and that’s a frequent knock on the Bucs. But Tampa Bay was willing to pay big money for Koenen.

He signed a six-year deal that averages $3.25 million per year and is making $3.5 million in base salary this year.

So far this season, when it comes to field position, the Bucs and Falcons each are getting what they paid for.