Kicker performance has been shown, over and over, to be essentially random from year to year. All but the most elite kickers tend to have good seasons followed by lesser seasons, and so on and so forth.
A classic example of that would be David Akers. He was one of the more consistent kickers in the NFL for a long time, consistently nailing over 80% of his kicks. Then he went into a funk from 2005-2007 where he only converted about 75%. Last year for the 49ers at the ripe old age of 38, he converted an awful 69%, and he's not guaranteed a gig in 2013 because of it.
I bring this up for a few reasons. Number one, Matt Bryant is going to be 38 this year. He has had a truly awesome run in Atlanta, but those runs don't last forever, even for someone as great as Money. Teams don't tend to change kickers until their performance visibly dips, and by then, you're left to frantically pick over the free agent market. Sometimes that works, as with Bryant. Other times it doesn't, like every situation Billy Cundiff has been involved with recently.
This isn't to say that I think we should be getting rid of Bryant. His accuracy took a small dip last year, but he's still one of the league's most reliable kickers. It's just that you never know how long a kicker is going to last in the NFL, and it may be time for the Falcons to at least start compiling a list of alternatives in case Bryant falters this year.
It's hard to say this, of course. I'll be fond of Bryant long after he hangs up his cleats in Atlanta, because he has been absolute nails for this Falcons, winning them a lot of close games they would have lost with a lesser kicker. I know these are unpopular conversations to have. But anytime a player is going to be 38, we need to talk about the future a little.
Let us debate.