Ultimately, free agency oftentimes is a game of chicken. Which side blinks first? Does the team pay a little more to make sure the guy doesn’t walk away? Does the player accept a little less to make sure he ends up where he wants to be?
There is irony in the fact the two kickers involved in the Cards’ switch both wanted to stay in the places they already played. Jay Feely made it clear he would have preferred to remain a Jet, and I know Neil Rackers — at least as the season was winding down — wanted to remain a Cardinal. But Rackers played that game of free-agent chicken with the Cards, which I had heard about and was broken down in detail by Kent Somers. Feely, meanwhile, felt the Jets had given him a bad contract offer himself (Feely made $1.4 million last season and claimed the Jets offered $300,000 less for a new deal). So Feely was ready to leave. Rackers, I would guess, probably wasn’t yet, but now there isn’t a choice.
I think coach Ken Whisenhunt’s point about the 2010 offense — “We felt like where we were going offensively this year because of Kurt (Warner) and losing some players, there might be more of an emphasis on the kicker in certain games this year,” he said — is important to note. Again, it’s not that Rackers couldn’t kick more field goals if the Matt Leinart offense isn’t as touchdown-friendly (and comparing it to the high-flying Warner offense probably won’t be fair), but the Cards needed to make sure a quality kicker was in place. I’m not sure how effective consistently Feely can be from long-range, but Rackers had enough trouble from 50 yards and beyond (5-of-18 in the regular season since 2006) that the Cards didn’t even bother with them anymore. Rackers tried just two in 2008 and none last year as the Cards stuck to Ben Graham’s deadly punting-inside-the-20 if they ended up in a field position of vague.
One final interesting side note: Rackers has certainly earned his reputation as a guy who will mix it up on special teams, and it was one of the reasons fans loved him. Well, Feely had six special-teams tackles last season — the same number as Rackers. For his career, Feely has 39 tackles, so he’ll mix it up himself. Feely was also briefly a teammate of punter/holder Graham’s for the first few games in 2008, so there should be a little familiarity there.
Tags: Ben Graham, Jay Feely, Ken Whisenhunt, Neil Rackers
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