|Tebow laid hands on Prater for his late-game heroics in 2011. (US Presswire)|
When I went through and broke down the status of the various players who received franchise tags this offseason, Broncos kicker Matt Prater was listed under a group of players teams could be optimistic about seeing in camp. That was fortunate, as the Broncos announced Monday a new four-year deal with the kicker.
“Happy to announce we have signed kicker Matt Prater to a new four-year deal,” John Elway tweeted. “This was the final piece in setting our roster for camp, and we are thrilled Matt is going to be a Bronco for a long time.”
Prater is the seventh player (out of 21) who received a franchise tag to receive a long-term deal this offseason, in advance of the July 16 deadline. CBSSports.com's Jason LaCanfora did an excellent breakdown of the contract odds for those players earlier Monday if you want to read more about it.
The Broncos kicker is also the second kicker -- after the Buccaneers Connor Barth -- to receive a long-term deal. The decision to extend Prater, depending on the money coming his way, is questionable though.
Prater is only 27, which means he shouldn't see a big drop-off in leg strength over the course the deal, but giving too much credence to said leg strength is a bit auspicious. After all, he kicks in Denver, which means he gets an advantage from the thin air there. This is shown by his kicking splits in 2011: he made 10 of 12 field goal attempts (83.3 percent) at home, and just nine of 13 FGA (69.2 percent) on the road.
His 76 percent of kicks made on the season ranked just 28th in the NFL last year. Prater did make three of four kicks beyond 50 yards, but he was just three of seven from 40-49 yards.
Additionally, Prater's reputation was boosted by "clutch" kicks -- he made four game-winning kicks for the Broncos last season. And Denver astutely noted in the press release that "he has made 28-of-29 (.966) fields goals attempted in the fourth quarter or overtime" during his career.
Prater probably deserves more credit for the Broncos improbable late-game success than Tim Tebow. (Only Jesus has recognized this fact thus far.) But none of that changes the reality that kickers, for the most part, are fungible in the NFL. Prater almost certainly will end up scoring more points with Peyton Manning under center in 2012. It'll be interesting to see whether Denver might wish for a more accurate kicker -- rather than one with a big leg -- with Manning in town though.
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