The Buffalo Bills spent a sixth-round draft pick on kicker Tyler Bass in April. Now, they plan to use him. With less than three weeks until the start of the 2020 NFL season, the team announced Thursday it has released veteran Stephen Hauschka, paving the way for the 23-year-old Bass to handle Buffalo's placekicking duties as a rookie.
Hauschka, 35, hadn't necessarily been a lock to remain the Bills' kicker. After all, Buffalo spent a draft pick on a potential successor in Bass, and the team wasn't shy about seeking competition throughout 2019. After hosting undrafted free agent Chase McLaughlin in last year's training camp, for example, the Bills reportedly attempted to re-acquire the rookie in December.
Still, the move marks a notable shift away from a proven leg for a team intent on making another playoff run. A Super Bowl champion with the Seattle Seahawks during a six-year stint on the West Coast, Hauschka joined the Bills in 2017 and is almost exactly a year removed from signing a two-year contract extension with the team. The veteran connected on 29 of 33 field goals (87.9%) during his first season with the Bills, setting an NFL record for consecutive 50-yard conversions, then hit on 22 of 28 tries (78.6%) in each of his last two seasons, totaling at least 90 points in three straight years.
Hauschka's release, coupled with that of punting competition Lachlan Edwards, saves Buffalo about $3.6 million in 2021 salary cap space, according to The Athletic's Joe Buscaglia. That space, of course, could be key during a year in which the NFL is expected to endure serious cap reductions as a result of this year's COVID-19 pandemic.