It’s easy to forget this now, but there was a time when Matt Bosher was not a beloved punter for his highlight reel hits and booming punts. That was of course in 2011, when fans were somewhere between puzzled and furious that the team would use a sixth round pick on a punter in a year where they already had limited selections. That got worse when Bosher struggled mightily out of the gate.
He’s settled in nicely since then, however, and currently stands at #2 on the franchise leaderboard for punts and punt yardage, and is #1 in terms of yards per punt. Bosher has done little but play at a high level, and the occasional trash talking in the direction of Rex Ryan and destruction of Kenjon Barner has only added to his mystique. Bosher even leads the team all-time in the number of kickoffs and kickoff yardage owing to the many seasons he spent handling those duties while Matt Bryant was focused on drilling his kicks through the uprights.
All good things come to an end, though, and there’s little point in pretending that Bosher’s run in Atlanta isn’t in danger of coming to a close. Let’s take a closer look at why, and what this offseason might bring for the most efficient punter in team history.
As recently as 2018, Bosher was still doing quality work. His yards per punt were up over 2017, and if his kicks weren’t quite booming the way they once were, he still was a better-than-average punter. He went into the final year of his deal in 2019 just needing to maintain that kind of value to get another long look in 2020, and based on his track record of durability and solid-to-great play, that felt like a virtual lock.
Now it’s hard to say what Bosher’s value is. He only played three games in 2019 owing to injuries, and the team placed him on injured reserve with a designation to return only to watch him aggravate his groin issue and go back on IR. In the meantime, Ryan Allen did a fine job at punter once the Falcons finished cycling through other options and Younghoe Koo handled kickoffs capably. Koo seems likely to return, which is another obstacle to Bosher’s return.
Bosher will be 33 in 2020, is coming off a lost season due to injury, and may no longer be handling kickoffs even if he does return to Atlanta. It’s fair to say that his value to the Falcons is not what it once was, even if there are plenty of teams who could use his leg.
The Falcons essentially have two options. The first is to try to coax Bosher back on a lesser deal, one that was would acknowledge that he’s older now, that he is coming off of injury, and that he may no longer be handling his customary kickoff duties in Atlanta. Given that Bosher has a long track record to point to and given that he hasn’t had a cap hit under $2.5 million since 2014, he’s not necessarily going to be overjoyed at that prospect. I don’t see any way the Falcons can pony up $2-plus million this year given their enduring cap questions, no matter how dismissive the front office is about those.
The second option is to let Bosher walk. If he’s healthy, there’s no question he’d have suitors with the state of punting leaguewide, while the Falcons would have to go get someone else. Allen’s a more affordable option who doesn’t have the strong leg but does a nice job of directional punting, but I have to think Atlanta’s once again going to dip into the draft or priority free agent pool to replace Bosher. Thomas Dimitroff is already talking up the specialists in this class, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to piece together that excited buzz with the very real possibility of a GM who already drafted one punter and saw that choice validated using a late round pick on another one. Potentially locking up that position affordably for four season is nothing to sneeze at, even if I’m loathe to use draft picks purely on special teams.
I do think we’ll see Bosher’s long and productive run in Atlanta come to an end this offseason, unfortunately. I’ll wish him well wherever he lands and always cherish the big punts and the big tackles.