Today, Acme Packing Company continues the examination of the Green Bay Packers’ 2016 roster. We conclude our breakdown of the different positions on the roster by examining the players on the 53-man roster in 2016, the contributions of new additions and players who signed new contracts, and players who have contracts expiring this offseason.
The whole time I was there we never lost a player [to free agency] we really wanted [to keep], that was really important to me. Except for one, because it became a bigger money issue.
- Ron Wolf on punter Craig Hentrich
Two of the Green Bay Packers’ three specialists were additions to the roster in 2016, but both of them came in on one-year contracts. With these two players facing the potential of free agency, this leaves the team’s front office with some decisions to make regarding the future of the special teams. However, their positions and free agent statuses make the path forward pretty clear for both players.
Here’s a look at these two key players, whose contributions usually go unnoticed or unappreciated.
Jacob Schum, P
Free agent type: Exclusive-rights
Experience: 2 years
How acquired: Claimed on waivers from Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Expiring contract: 1 year, $525,000 (league minimum)
2016 Stats: 56 punts, 2420 yards, 43.2 gross average
It’s interesting to note that while Jeff Fisher is bad at pretty much everything, the guy can apparently pick out punters. Fisher was the coach of the Oilers/Titans when they signed Hentrich away in free agency and he served them well as one of the NFL’s elite players at the position for years. The Packers have never really recovered. Fisher took over head coaching duties for the Rams in 2012, just as they signed Johnny Hekker as an undrafted free agent out of Oregon State. Hekker is by far the league’s best punter, and is currently working on a 6-year deal which averages over $2 million per season and has over $7 million in guarantees. The Rams are bad, and so Hekker gets a lot of work, earning every penny.
In 2016, Hekker led the league in net punt average at 46.0 even, or 6.9 yards per punt more than Jacob Schum. Hekker was also 2nd in the league in punt attempts with 98, falling just short of 49ers punter Bradley Pinion’s 100. Hekker’s punts netted 4506 yards on the season in total and after Aaron Donald, he was almost certainly the most valuable Ram. Jacob Schum punted only 56 times by virtue of serving under an excellent offense, however had he punted as much as Hekker he would have accounted for 3831.8 yards, a difference of 674.2 net yards. That is a lot of yards.
Schum isn’t paid like Hekker (thank goodness) and is an exclusive-rights free agent at the end of the year. It was surprising when the Packers cut both Tim Masthay and original challenger Peter Mortell at the beginning of the year, and while Schum wasn’t terrible, it’s hard to imagine that either of the challengers would have performed any worse, and I suspect Masthay would have been better.
The Packers go out of their way for stability, but keeping Schum isn’t necessarily promoting stability. He hasn’t distinguished himself and it would be easy to show him the door if a better option becomes available. Don’t be surprised if this was his one and only year in Green Bay.
With that said, the Packers could easily offer him a minimum-salary ERFA tender and keep him on the team, even if they plan to bring in additional competition during the offseason or training camp.
Brett Goode, LS
Free agent type: Unrestricted
How acquired: Signed as free agent
Experience: 9 years
Expiring contract: 1 year, $885,000
Goode finished out a long-term contract with the Packers in 2015 on injured reserve, when Rick Lovato took over after the veteran tore his ACL late in the year. However, Goode was brought back on a one-year deal before week one of the 2016 season.
There is good reason to go out there, do some due diligence, and upgrade your punter, but long-snappers are different animals. It’s more of a binary position in which you either can or cannot do your job, with little room for nuance or advanced techniques. Goode can, and that makes him a good candidate to return.
Although Goode has never made much of an impact as a coverage player, his primary responsibility is getting the football out quickly and accurately to the punter or holder. Quick, think back to the last poor snap you can remember from the Packers’ special teams.
After proving that he was fully healthy and recovered from his ACL tear, Goode’s track record and camaraderie in the locker room should result in his return to Green Bay.