An NFL placekicker has his own world. For him, the word “placekicker” is another way of saying “no contact.” Contact, for a placekicker, is referred to as “roughing the kicker.” A normal day at the office means he’ll be in the game for two minutes, maybe less. A good placekicker can keep earning NFL money into his 40s. Many do.
Placekickers enjoy a unique situation in professional football. Besides the aforementioned job perks, his stats are separate and independent from his team’s stats. The questions for him are: “How long was my field goal?”; “How many field goals did I attempt?”; “How many were successful?” Sure, he’s not completely untethered — a lousy snap or bad blocking can alter his stats, but for the most part a placekicker is on his own in a way unlike any other player on the field.
Kickers have the lowest salaries in the NFL. Saying that, being on the low end of the NFL salary range doesn’t seem like much of a burden. The 2009 NFL median salary for all players is $770,000. Kickers are doing okay.
But, you ask, what about San Diego’s placekicker, the one whose name must not be spoken, the one who missed three ordinary field goals in the season-ending three-point loss to those loathsome thugs known as the New York Jets? Well, our lad made $1,450,000 in 2009.
Hold on there, citizen. Put down the gun and consider this: There are tens of thousands of people (mostly in San Diego, but others scattered across the face of the Earth) who will remember those three missed field goals for as long as they live. Indeed, the person whose name must not be spoken could be sitting in a bar in Kingman, the year might be 2068 (the man would be 82 years old then), and he’ll be sitting at the bar staring into the mirror and somebody in that saloon will remember those three missed field goals. Which is a long way around to suggest he’s probably not overpaid.
As far as Super Bowl XLIV teams, the New Orleans placekicker, Garrett Hartley, has a base salary of $385,000 (more of this anon). The Indy placekicker, Matt Stover, has a base salary of $845,000. These men came to their jobs in the usual way. To wit: the previous starting placekicker was injured or cut. In Stover’s case, the starting placekicker, Adam Vinatieri ($2,255,720 total salary) had an operation on his right hip and knee last summer, worked six regular-season games, and then had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. (By the way, Vinatieri will be on the sidelines and on the roster this Sunday. Therefore, this will count as his sixth Super Bowl appearance and mayhap allow Vinatieri to join Charles Haley as the only players who own five Super Bowl rings.) No matter, the Colts Super Bowl placekicker is Matt Stover. He’s only 42 years old — mid-career, actually —and he’ll be fine. In fact, Stover recently told reporters, “I want to play for another handful of years….”
Longtime San Diego placekicker John Carney turned up in New Orleans this season. Ronald Reagan was president when Carney kicked his first field goal in the NFL. He played for the Chargers from 1990 to 2000, was there for the Chargers’ Super Bowl season. And you know Carney (who will be 46 in April) still has a lot of good years left in his working leg.
Carney’s 2009 salary is $830,000. I should insert here that all these salary numbers are bogus. No contract is guaranteed in the NFL. You might sign for $3 million, miss three field goals in one crucial game, thereby causing the coach to cut your ass, and bingo, your $3 million contract is void. The team owes you nothing.
Kickers move around a lot. You’re always three missed field goals away from being cast out. Sooner or later you will be cut. Follows is Carney’s NFL itinerary: he was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in 1987. Since then he’s played for Tampa Bay, L.A. Rams, San Diego Chargers, New Orleans 1 (2001 to 2006), Jacksonville, Kansas City, New York Giants, and New Orleans 2 (2009).
He got his New Orleans 2 job courtesy of NFL police. The starting placekicker was suspended (four games) after testing positive for a banned stimulant. The spot was turned over to Carney, who signed a one-year contract. Carney played 11 games, did good at first, but then his performance began to fall off. Hartley was brought back to start the 12th game, made four field goals, including a game-winning overtime field goal.
Say hello to the Saints new/old starting placekicker.