Earlier this offseason, we floated the idea that an effective Nick Rose might push Matt Bryant hard for the kicking gig. That didn’t happen because Rose really wasn’t effective and may never have been serious competition, but I don’t think that was an unfounded take for a few reasons.
- Matt Bryant is over 40 years old. The number of kickers who have been genuinely effective after they turned 40 can be counted on two hands;
- Matt Bryant was injured much of last year, and is currently dealing with an injury right now;
- Matt Bryant is in the top half of the NFL for kicker salaries, which is more than justified if he’s healthy and effective, but see points above.
Add this all up and you have an uncomfortable question or two to answer about Bryant’s status with the team. The NFL is the NFL and teams go on while legends depart, but Bryant has been a terrific kicker for this team and is a tremendous human being, so it sucks to contemplate him not being in Atlanta.
With Shayne Graham re-signed after an effective stint with the Falcons in 2015 and handling the kicking duties Thursday night, there’s at least the possibility that Graham, not Bryant, is the Falcons’ kicker in 2016. We’re not really sure what Bryant’s dealing with, which leaves us to wonder whether it’s the kind of ailment that could linger into the regular season or whether it’s just something minor that the Falcons are being cautious about. If it’s the latter—and given that the Falcons expect Bryant to be available for Week 4 of preseason, hopefully it is—then he should be safe.
While I hope a healthy Bryant is the guy this year, you shouldn’t take that for granted, particularly if Graham looks sharp the next two weeks.