Packers Sign Tavecchio, But Is This Kicking Competition Real?

Chris Humphreys-US PRESSWIRE

The Packers signed a kicker this week, most likely to compete with Mason Crosby. But is he actually going to be given a shot to win the job, or is he just coming to camp to push Crosby to improve?

On Tuesday the Green Bay Packers announced that they had signed kicker Giorgio Tavecchio to a contract. Tavecchio is presumably coming to training camp to compete with Mason Crosby for his job, and will look to make an NFL roster for the first time. However, we need to figure out what kind of competition this will be, and to do that we need to take a closer look at the new member of the team.

Tavecchio played at the University of California from 2008 to 2011. In 2008 and 2009, he split time at kicker, taking 25 of the team's 45 field goal attempts in that span and making 17 of them for a hit rate of 68%. He became the lone kicker for his junior and senior seasons, making 11 of 16 field goals in 2010 (68.8%) and 20 of 23 in 2011 (87%). This puts his career numbers at 48 of 64, or 75%. He also made 112 of his 121 PATs, for a rate of 92.6%.

As the Packers' press release notes, he was signed by the San Francisco 49ers last year as an undrafted free agent and made one field goal in the preseason before being released in favor of David Akers. He is also left-footed, for whatever that's worth.

Ultimately, I don't see Mason Crosby's job as being in jeopardy. Mike McCarthy stuck with Crosby through the worst slump of his career last year, declining to even bring another kicker in for a tryout. With collegiate numbers like this, it seems unlikely that Tavecchio will be able to unseat a veteran Crosby who's still only a year removed from a very good 2011 season that saw him hit a career-high 86% of his field goal attempts. There's also Crosby's contract that needs to be considered as well, as he would cost the Packers $1.8 million against the salary cap this season if he were to be cut (compared to his $3.15 million cap hit if he stays). I suppose the team would still save money without him if he's drastically outplayed, but that's still unlikely.

More likely, I think, is that this is a move to get Crosby a little bit out of his comfort zone and just bring a body into camp to push him a bit. Perhaps Crosby should get some legitimate competition for his job, or perhaps not; either way, I don't think that's what is going on here. If the Packers actually wanted someone to give Crosby a run for his money, they would have picked up an experienced free agent kicker like Shayne Graham, Lawrence Tynes, or Steven Hauschka, not a player who has barely been heard of outside of the Bay area of California. Hopefully this will be a bit of a wake-up call for Crosby, but I don't really think his job is in jeopardy either way.

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