We finally get to the last position grouping on the Green Bay Packers roster today before we recap our 53-man roster projection tomorrow, complete with practice squad and PUP list predictions. Before we get there, we've got the final four players on the roster to break down, and for once there is a competition at a different position that actually uses the foot to move a football.
Locks to Start
Punter Tim Masthay, Long-Snapper Brett Goode
Masthay has finally become a long-term punter for the Packers, solidifying a position that was in a great deal of flux before the 2010 season. His average yards per punt have not been staggering, as he has not finished in the top 10 punters in the NFL during any of his three seasons, but his direction punting is very good and he has developed a solid skill of minimizing damage that can be done by opposing returners. He's also the holder on place-kicks, and has not caused a missed kick because of a bad hold (unless my memory has failed me). The Ginger Wolverine signed a five-year deal before the 2012 season, and he isn't going anywhere any time soon. Oh, and remember this? Yup, that's Masthay who got credit for a 27-yard touchdown pass.
One of the most thankless jobs in football, however, is the long-snapper. The Packers have been lucky to have found two of the best in recent years - first Rob Davis manned the position for 11 seasons before retiring and allowing Goode to earn the job. Think back - can you remember a single snap of Goode's that has gone awry? I can't, and that's all you can ask of a long-snapper: stay invisible on the field. Goode has done that, and has the job.
Kickers Mason Crosby, Giorgio Tavecchio
Some look at the kicker competition as being a formality this season, but I really believe that the Packers will let the player who kicks best have the job. From a financial perspective, it might actually benefit the Packers to let Crosby go and roll with Tavecchio - the dead money in Crosby's contract ($1.8 million plus his 2013 workout bonus of $150k) will actually make the 2013 cap hit less if they release him and keep Tavecchio than just holding onto the six-year veteran and taking the full cap salary of $3.15 million. That said, the team does have a lot of time and effort invested in Crosby and if he can figure out the mental block that appeared to be his problem in 2012, he certainly has the leg to be one of the best kickers in the league.
People seem to forget that in 2011, Crosby missed just four field goals out of 28 attempts, good for almost 86%. Granted, he only attempted three kicks and made two from beyond 50 yards, which were his greatest downfall in 2012 (2-for-9), but the ability is there - he just needs to get his head on straight.
Tavecchio, on the other hand, is a bit of an unknown who made a brief appearance in training camp with the 49ers last season. The former California Bear will be the underdog out of the gate, but my guess is that he will split reps with Crosby nearly 50/50 in an attempt to give each the opportunity to earn the job outright.
Keep it locked here for our predictions on the winner of the kicking competition this afternoon, and click here for the full off-season positional review schedule.