The Falcons have been extremely fortunate at the kicker position for much of the last decade. Longtime starter Matt Bryant joined the team in 2009 and never looked back, with his magnificent 11-year run finally coming to an end in 2019. Throughout those years, Bryant delivered many memorable and incredibly clutch kicks, and was about as reliable as they come.
The Falcons moved on from Bryant in 2018 for journeyman kicker Giorgio Tavecchio, only to watch Tavecchio fail miserably in the preseason. Bryant started 7 games in 2019, but injuries and age finally seemed to catch up to him. He was just 9 of 14 in FG attempts and was waived by the team in late October. The Falcons then brought in ex-Chargers kicker Younghoe Koo, who performed admirably over the remainder of the season: 23 of 26 on FG attempts (88.5%) and 15 of 16 on extra points (93.8%). He was also exceptional on onside kicks and handled kickoffs for the team.
Despite Koo’s strong season, he did have a noticeable weakness as a kicker: his FG range. Although Koo did manage to kick a 50-yarder successfully, his kicks over 45 yards were all relative “close calls”. Atlanta seemed to recognize this deficiency and didn’t have Koo attempting many kicks from beyond 50, which is a considerable change from their time with Bryant—who was reliable well past 50 yards and nailed a 57-yard FG as recently as 2018.
It was reasonable to expect the Falcons to bring in some sort of competition for Koo after failing to bring in anyone for Tavecchio (no, Blair Walsh doesn’t count) and watching it blow up in their face. However, the team has thus far failed to add any other kickers to the roster. This is a little strange, as they would often bring in UDFA players to compete with Bryant despite his relative safety on the roster.
At this stage, are the Falcons likely to add any other kickers? In terms of UDFA options, probably not. All the top prospects have already been snatched up. There are still a few veteran free agents available: Stephen Gostkowski, Ryan Succop, and Nick Folk all have plenty of experience and have been solid-to-good options for teams. There’s also the potential that the team views rookie seventh-round punter Sterling Hofrichter as a form of competition (and insurance) for Koo.
Remember that Hofrichter actually handled some of the long FG attempts for Syracuse and functioned as a kicker in an emergency situation. Hofrichter went a very respectable 3 of 4 (75%) when called upon, including a 52-yard success. Could the Falcons be planning to use Hofrichter for longer attempts while letting Koo handle the short stuff? It’s a possibility.
At this point, I’m not sure that the team plans to add any additional kickers to the roster before training camp. Even during camp, as long as Koo doesn’t struggle in the preseason, I’d expect them to stay the course. Should Koo have a Tavecchio-like fall from grace, however, all bets are off. In that case, ex-Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski would probably be Dimitroff’s first choice.
What are your thoughts on Atlanta’s kicker situation? Are you comfortable with the combination of Younghoe Koo and Sterling Hofrichter at kicker heading into camp? Of the available free agents, is there anyone you’d prefer?