Saturday night’s preseason game against the Las Vegas Raiders wasn’t the first time Matt Gay had helped bail out the LA Rams. It was last season that Gay brought some stability to one of the NFL’s most volatile kicking situations, converting 14 of 16 field goal attempts with 16 of 16 extra points, following a combined effort from 10 of 14 and 22 of 26 by the two kickers who preceded him.
Then on Saturday against the Raiders, Gay plugged what could have been a very damaging hole for special teams by hitting the ball four times for 168 yards with virtually no error.
It’s understandable then why Sean McVay might feel grateful for Gay’s surprising efforts as a punter this weekend, but if Rams fans start to feel uncomfortable about the field goals situation. as if it was again in 2020, that would also make sense.
After missing an extra point in the first preseason game against the LA Chargers, Gay’s second field goal attempt on Saturday was weak and blocked by a Raiders defensive lineman. The situation may not seem serious because Gay has felt so entrenched in the kicking position since the end of last season – LA has made no effort to bring the competition up, only keeping Austin MacGinnis up. cut it last week – but part of it has to have something to do with the same feeling you might have with the first person you date after the worst relationship of your life.
The Rams had a mostly happy marriage to Greg Zuerlein, and then McVay clearly spent some “apps” time after the divorce going through a few one-night stands, and the mere fact that Gay wasn’t throwaway may having seemed the same as being on the way to another long term relationship. But it’s not like Gay came without luggage.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 2019 fifth-round pick, Gay suffered enough setbacks in his rookie season for the team to reopen competition in 2020, and he was ultimately cut in favor of Ryan Succop, which has led to spending a few months on the Indianapolis Colts practice squad before joining LA. While Succop isn’t hitting for the distance – he’s landed a 50-yard kick in the past two years – a high-scoring team like the Buccaneers were looking for consistency under 45 yards. Succop converted 64 of the extra 70 points, including the playoffs, and he scored 37 of 40 field goals.
The Rams are surely planning to be a high scoring offense with Matthew Stafford now installed as a quarterback. Do they have more faith in Gay than what Bruce Arians and the Bucs had on September 5 when they released him?
While it can be difficult to identify which kickers who become “flagships” during the offseason will continue their quality play in the regular season – consider that the Rams were in the kicker market for most of 2020 and walked away with Sam Sloman, Austin MacGinnis, Lirim Hajrullahu, Kai Forbath and Gay – there are always those who seem to move teams during the season and then go for big things.
Younghoe Koo rebounded in the league for a few years before his Pro Bowl season with the Atlanta Falcons in 2020; Succop was an available veteran last September and now he feels pretty comfortable with the reigning Super Bowl winners; Harrison Butker was a Panthers seventh-round pick in 2017, but was cut and taken over by the KC Chiefs, where he’s one of the league’s most reliable after four years; and Carolina went with starter Graham Gano and he made the Pro Bowl that season.
But Gano missed all of 2019 with an injury and the Panthers released him last year. The New York Giants signed Gano and he did so well last season that they gave him a new three-year, $ 14.4 million contract in 2021. Gano isn’t moving out of his place and that means one of New York’s top training camps has nowhere to sign its name on the Giants’ final 53-player roster.
It looks like, as sometimes happens, New York will be able to trade a kicker for a draft pick at a team that needs a kicker, of whom there are always at least a few.
Could the Rams be one of those rare? And would Ryan Santoso be the long-term answer they were hoping to find? If he is, then ironically, the LA Rams would bring in one of the few special team members in history who is known to have done what Gay did on Saturday night: kick and in a boat.
One player is already generating significant commercial interest in the league: # Giants K Ryan Santoso. The teams have called and he could be dealt with as the season draws closer. His path is blocked by Graham Gano in NYG, but he has proven to be a rookie caliber.
– Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) August 22, 2021
After a red shirt year in 2013, Ryan Santoso became the Minnesota field goal kicker for the 2014 and 2015 seasons. Although he was automatic on extra points (as most kickers tend to be on those gadgets that were in the NFL), the team moved Santoso to the punter in 2016. The massive 6’5, 258 lb Santoso therefore divided his college football career. , spending the first half on baskets and the second half on punters.
Santoso signed with the Detroit Lions after the 2018 draft, but the team gave him up in the final cups in each of the next two training camps. He briefly spent time in the CFL in 2019 before being signed by the Tennessee Titans at the end of the year to help with three-game kickoffs. Santoso returned to the CFL but was back in the market when they canceled their season due to the pandemic in 2020.
It was probably good for Santoso, as he spent most of last season on the Giants’ training squad and he’s now had quite a normal offseason trying to prove himself as a valuable weapon of the special teams. And that’s really what Santoso is, more than just a kicker, according to his current special teams coordinator.
“He can do anything. Ryan can kick, kick – I’m serious, he’s very talented and he’s been in NFL games before, he’s out, he can throw goals on the field, so Ryan is a very talented young man, ”special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey said last week. . “Ryan has good potential, he’s a good man, he works his cock. That’s what this league is all about, it’s all about competition and I hope Ryan can do enough where he can find a job, whether here or elsewhere.
But Santoso isn’t the only kicker generating trade rumors in the league. As is often the case with John Harbaugh’s Baltimore Ravens, special teams are more like phase two of the game than phase three, and save kicker Jake Verity has gone almost automatic when called up. As incumbent Justin Tucker is an elite player in his role, Verity won’t make the Ravens, but could potentially help another team looking to steal a long-term solution.
However, it’s still a buyer’s situation, beware of kickers. The Minnesota Vikings sent the Ravens a fifth-round pick in 2019 for substitute Kaare Vedvik after a strong off-season performance, but he was released a few weeks later and is currently fighting for a CFL position, as is Santoso. once was.
Matt Gay might be safe today, but he’s also in a position where it only takes one bad regular season game before you feel like you’re starting to ask yourself ‘Who’s available? ”
Teams may not get a better answer to this question than the names that are on the market today and not necessarily in December. Should the Rams call for any of these other options?