Atlanta Falcons kicker Matt Bryant is a damn fine football player. As NFL kickers go, he’s the bee’s knees. If Bryant could continue at his current pace into his 60s, I’m sure the team would have him. But at some point, all football players start to regress, right? That’s the conventional logic when we’re talking about normal football players. But again, Bryant isn’t normal.
Bryant may be a 42 year old man, but he’s crushing the football in 2017. He’s knocked down 6 of 7 50+ yard attempts and 7 of 8 40+ yard attempts this season. Compare that to 2016 when he knocked down 6 of 8 50+ yard attempts and 9 of 9 40+ yard attempts. There’s a reason this man goes by the nickname “Money,” because he’s absurdly reliable. So what lies ahead for Bryant and the Falcons?
Bryant will be an unrestricted free agent in 2018. He represented a $3.08 million cap hit in 2017. His $1.4 million base salary in 2017 is only $400k more than the league minimum. (It’s worth noting that he made much more money earlier in his career with the Falcons.) I have to assume the Falcons could retain him with a similar investment next season. We know he loves playing for the Falcons and we know his family is quite fond of the team as well. The question is whether the team has any reason to think some sort of regression is on the horizon.
Frankly if Bryant stays healthy, there’s no reason to expect him to regress, at least not the immediate future. Hall of Famer and former Atlanta Falcons kicker Morten Anderson wasn’t knocking down 50+ yard field goals like this late in his career. Anderson finished off his career with the Falcons in 2007 at age 47.
Bryant is basically a top five kicker, and there’s little reason to think he will substantially regress in the immediate future. Sure, it was hard to watch him suffer through his kicking leg injury earlier this season, and that injury probably impacted the outcome of the Falcons 20-17 week nine loss to the Carolina Panthers. But for now it makes sense to look at that injury as an anomaly, something that could happen to any player, regardless of age.
Given Bryant’s track record, there’s absolutely no reason to let him walk in free agency. There will come a time when the team will look to the future, but that time hasn’t come. For now, there is no kicker conundrum in Atlanta, just a new contract that will need to be written up and signed by a man that absolutely deserves it.