This morning, we examined the Redskins’ 2014 outlook for the specialists. Now, CSNWashington.com Insiders Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will discuss whether the team needs to bring in competition for kicker Kai Forbath and punter Sav Rocca.
El-Bashir: Competition within a team isn’t just good, it’s necessary in pro sports. Nothing motivates an elite athlete like the possibility of losing his job (and the big paycheck that goes along with it). Nothing. In fact, Forbath told me last summer that the addition of kickoff specialist John Potter to the 90-man offseason roster served as “major motivation” to redouble his efforts to improve.
As I noted in this morning’s outlook, Forbath was one of the few bright spots for the Redskins’ otherwise dreary special teams in 2013. After recovering from a groin muscle strain, he connected on 13 of 13 field goal attempts in the final eight games. His kickoffs? Well, let's just say those remain a work in progress. Forbath recorded only 14 touchbacks and ranked toward the bottom of the league in kickoff distance and hang time.
As of today, though, Forbath is the only kicker on the roster. But that doesn't mean another kicker won't be added; Potter was signed in June.
Rocca, meantime, already figures to face at least one competitor after a subpar 2013 season that included far too many short punts. Robert Malone, who has played for the Bucs, Lions and Jets, was signed to a futures contract in December and will get the opportunity to compete with Rocca, 40. In two games with the Jets last season, Malone, 26, averaged 46.3 yards (including an 84-yarder) and recorded a net of 37.1. Malone also makes about half of Rocca's $1.2 million base salary.
Incumbent players don’t like competition. It puts them on edge. But if the incumbent player is, indeed, the right guy, it will also bring out the best in him.
Tandler: In my mind, this is a split decision. Rocca needs competition. In fact, he should have had it last year. Perhaps he would not have had the worst net punting average in the league if the Redskins had spent one of their 90 roster spots on someone to push the 39-year-old punter.
But they didn’t and now they find themselves with a punter with a $1.36 million cap number. As Tarik noted, the Redskins have brought in competition for Rocca in the form of Robert Malone. The Redskins should go younger and cheaper. Malone should not have to knock out the incumbent to get the job. If the two are close, the team should go with the younger and cheaper option.
Forbath is a young and inexpensive option. He got off to a rocky start last year, missing some makeable field goal in the early going and getting sidelined with an injury. But he finished strong and he earned the job at the end of last season. Perhaps they could bring in another kicker during OTAs and minicamps but if Forbath hangs tough there he should go into camp unchallenged. That will give him the opportunity to get all of the kickoffs and field goal attempts during the preseason to get sharp for the regular season.