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Need to Know: Should the Redskins replace kicker Kai Forbath?

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Need to Know: Should the Redskins replace kicker Kai Forbath?

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, March 1 nine days before the Washington Redskins and the rest of the NFL start free agency.

Question of the day

We’re going back to the NTK format we’ve been using since last month. Every day I’ll give an in-depth answer to a question submitted by a fan on my Twitter feed, via the Real Redskins Facebook page, or in the comments section here. On Twitter address the questions to me at @Rich_TandlerCSN with the #NTK hashtag. There will be a comment thread set up on the Facebook page and if you’re asking your question here, put “for NTK” at the start of the comment.

Today’s question comes from the Real Redskins Facebook page.

The Redskins have a decision to make regarding Forbath, who has been the kicker since he took over five games into the 2012 season. He is a restricted free agent and the team has the right to present him with an RFA tender offer.

Their deadline is the start of free agency, March 10. They also could attempt to sign him to a contract prior to the start of free agency. Or they could let him walk as a free agent. So there are many options and all of them are in the hands of the Redskins, who do not seem to be particularly eager to lock up the player who would be, as Brian noted, the most accurate field goal kicker in team history is he had enough attempts to qualify. He is 59 of 67 for his Redskins career, 88.1 percent. The Redskins career leader is Shaun Suisham, who was 81 of 101, 80.2 percent. One hundred attempts are needed to qualify.

So why aren’t the Redskins rushing to lock up Forbath? It’s his leg strength. Forbath is fine from shorter distances. But the Redskins were one of only three NFL teams that did not have a field goal made from over 50 yards. Knowing that his kicker’s leg was limited, Jay Gruden only sent Forbath out there for one such attempt. And Forbath’s short-range accuracy really didn’t end up giving him much of an advantage over the league as a whole. In 2014 he was 24 of 27, 88.9 percent. The league as a whole kicked field goals with 84 percent accuracy. Had Forbath kicked with league-average accuracy he would have kicked 1.3 fewer field goals, a loss of four points for the team.

Compare that to potential points given up by the poor field position the Redskins had after they kicked off. Forbath’s net kickoff average was 40.7 yards (31st in the NFL) while the league average was 43.0. According to to this analysis, every yard of field position on a possession is worth about .055 points. Forbath kicked off 54 times so the Redskins in theory lost 6.8 points over the course of the season because Forbath’s kickoffs were not as deep as those of the average NFL kicker.

And compared to the NFL’s best kickoff man, Billy Cundiff of the Browns (yes, the kicker that Forbath replaced), Forbath’s kickoffs result in field position that on average yields 13.3 more opposition points during the season.

This doesn’t mean that they will let Forbath go. They have nine more days to decide if they want to tender him or to sign him to a new contract before he becomes an unrestricted free agent. They could hold on to him and bring in a serious competitor, someone with a stronger but perhaps less accurate leg and let them duke it out. Another option would be to roll with Forbath and have punter Tress Way, who has a stronger leg, handle the kickoffs. But that option is far from ideal since at this point in his career Way needs to worry more about refining his punting technique; practice time spent kicking off would detract from that.

The bottom line is that the numbers say that the Redskins might gain more than they lose if they get a kicker that can pound the ball through the end zone on a consistent basis and who can boot field goals from 50 yards or more occasionally even if he is a little less accurate on the short kicks than Forbath is. The Redskins may or may not be able to find one and it will be interesting to see what they do with Forbath in the meantime.

Timeline

—It’s been 63 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be about 196 days until they play another one.

Days until: NFL free agency starts 9; Redskins offseason workouts start 50; 2015 NFL Draft 60

If you have any questions about what's going on at Redskins Park, hit me up in the comments. And I'm always on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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