The Falcons brought back Younghoe Koo on an affordable, $660,000 pact with the understanding that he’ll compete for the job again after a very solid 2019. If he wins it outright and has another great year, he’ll likely get a long-term deal from the team, which would be an ideal outcome for all involved. They’re not going to just hand him the gig, however.
In theory, I have no problem with that at all. The Falcons watched Giorgio Tavecchio implode, belatedly signed the worst option they could find to compete with him, and then panic-signed Matt Bryant right before the season, which was a disaster on basically every level. Ensuring the team has another option if Koo falters is fundamentally sound.
It does raise an important question, one sparked by Combine reports: Will Atlanta draft that competition?
I’ll be perfectly honest: Despite the smooth Georgia ties of kickers like Rodrigo Blankenship (UGA) and Tyler Bass (who would join fellow Georgia Southern alum Koo on the roster), I’d be pretty ticked off if Atlanta drafted a kicker this season. I understand the desire to create competition perfectly well, but there are a number of veteran kickers and a handful of UDFA types in this class who could scratch that itch. Houston’s Ka’imi Fairbairn, New England’s Nick Folk, Arizona’s Zane Gonzalez, and Indianapolis’s Chase McLaughlin, plus a bunch of lesser lights, are all slated to hit free agency.
The presence of Koo and the team’s varied needs are the major reasons I’m opposed. I fully recognize that not everyone is smitten with Koo, especially given the lack of long field goal tries a year ago, but he did at worst a solid job on fields goals and extra points and was largely nails on kickoffs, especially those of the onside persuasion. Even if you feel that way, though, this is a year where nailing a couple of late round picks and picking up quality depth at one of the many positions of need across this roster feels pretty vital, and the draft track record at kicker is decidedly mixed, as the last two elite players at the position who were actually drafted are Harrison Butker (2017) and arguably Mason Crosby (2007).
Should you take Atlanta’s conversations with Bass and Blankenship as a sign that they’re definitely drafting a kicker? Absolutely not. Should you at least brace yourself for the possibility that a late round selection at kicker could be on the table, given that desire for competition and given that Koo is only here on an affordable, one-year deal? Absolutely.