Welcome to the end of the prediction section of the offseason. Over the past two weeks, Acme Packing Company has presented our overall roster predictions for the Green Bay Packers’ season-opening 53-man roster. Today, we wrap up the position groups with the Packers’ specialists.
The Packers currently employ just four players who are dedicated specialists, but two of these players were additions on the third day of the 2018 NFL Draft. Not surprisingly, APC expects those players to make the team in their respective positions. Here’s a look at our predictions for the special teamers as we approach training camp.
Kicker: Mason Crosby
Years of NFL Experience: 11
Current Contract: Third year of 4-year contract; cap hit $5.25 million
2017 Stats: 16 games; 15-of-19 field goals, 33-of-35 PATs
With no other kickers on the Packers’ roster, Crosby appears to enter another offseason without any competition for his job. His contract would dictate that the team would absorb over $3 million in dead money if he were to be released, due to prorated signing bonus money plus workout and roster bonuses already paid this offseason.
Ultimately, however, Crosby had a down year in 2017. He failed to hit 80% on field goals, though he did have a particularly small sample size. Crosby had never attempted fewer than 28 field goals in a season before last year, when he had just 19 attempts. Crosby hit 15 of those, with one of the four misses being blocked. He also missed two PATs a year after missing three.
Sure, issues with the trio of specialists a year ago may have contributed to the struggles, but Crosby probably needs a solid year in 2018 to guarantee that he gets to play out the final year of his contract. Can he finally find a groove and hit over 90% of his field goal attempts? Maybe not, but he should be expected to get back over 85% again.
Punter: JK Scott
Years of NFL Experience: Rookie
Current Contract: First year of 4-year rookie contract; cap hit $534,389
2017 Stats (Alabama Crimson Tide): 54 punts, 2,320 yards (43.0 average); 1-for-3 FGs; 8-for-8 PATs
Scott was a fifth-round pick of the Packers’ in the 2018 NFL Draft, and his selection prompted last year’s punter, Justin Vogel, to request his release from the team to find a new job sooner rather than later. As such, it’s clear that Scott is the team’s punter of the future, and that he will be expected to be the guy in 2018.
Last year, Scott’s gross punting average dropped from a stellar 47.2 the year before, but he actually increased his net average from 39.2 to 40.0 yards per punt.
As the member of a family who has a home in Hayward, Wisconsin, Scott is familiar with the weather in the state and his recent focus on limiting returns should mesh well with Ron Zook’s philosophy.
Long snapper: Hunter Bradley
Years of NFL Experience: Rookie
Current Contract: First of 4-year rookie contract; cap hit
The Packers have a pair of long snappers on the roster this summer — undrafted first-year pro Zach Triner and Bradley, one of the team’s seventh-round draft picks. Although Bradley appeared to struggle a bit in spring practices, the bet here from APC is unanimous that he will get it figured out in training camp and that the Packers’ draft pick investment in him will lead to him getting the job.
Released: Zach Triner
Years of NFL Experience: None (entered NFL in 2016)
Current Contract: One-year contract; cap hit $480,000
Triner entered the NFL in 2016, but failed to land on an NFL roster until after the conclusion of that season when the Jets signed him to a futures contract. However, he was released in May around the time of New York’s rookie minicamp. The Packers picked him up for a practice squad spot late in the 2017 season then offered him another futures contract for 2018.
For now, Triner is locked in competition with Bradley for the job. However, APC expects him to be on the move again with Bradley earning the spot to succeed longtime Packer Brett Goode.