After Terrell Suggs, Sam Koch (along with Haloti Ngata) is the longest-tenured Raven.
He’s done a lot for a team that has struggled offensively. He also took a crucial eight seconds off the clock near the end of Super Bowl XLVII to help Baltimore win their second world championship.
But with last year being an average year for Koch and with the remaining two years of his contract counting as $5.9 million against the Ravens’ cap, is it time to look for another punter?
I don’t fully know. But here’s what I do know.
When attempting to measure the success of punters, more than punting averages or total yards, punts downed inside the 20-yard line and fair catches are strong indicators of a punter’s success.
Last year, Koch’s number of punts downed inside the 20-yard line (27) tied him for 13th in that category among all NFL punters. His number of punts that resulted in a fair catch (14) ranked him 26th in the league.
Was that just a “down” year for Koch? Maybe it was. But while multiple seasons like that would merit consideration of release, there are three reasons why I think the Ravens will keep Koch on their roster, at least through his current contract.
Koch is far and away the best punter in Ravens history. He’s played in twice as many games and has punted almost twice as much as the next player (Kyle Richardson). The Ravens know what they’re getting with Koch and they know he’ll work extremely hard to be better in 2014.
It might seem insignificant to you, but Koch gets along really well with kicker Justin Tucker and long snapper Morgan Cox. What does that mean? That means their timing is like clockwork.
I’ll say it another way. Tucker and the kicking game was one of Baltimore’s only bright spots last year. When one of strongest parts of your team depends mostly on timing, you shouldn’t mess with it.
Lack of competition
There are seven NFL unrestricted free agent punters and six collegiate punters that will enter the NFL Draft in May. To only choose from 13 players to replace one of your team’s leaders means you as a staff have to be sure your current punter must go. I can assure you, though they may not be pleased with last year’s performance, the Ravens are not close to that point with Koch.
Eight of the 12 playoff teams from a year ago paid their punter less than what the Ravens paid Koch ($2.8 million). Seattle’s John Ryan made half of what Koch made last season.
I don’t like teams paying that much money to a punter when they have much bigger needs to address. However Koch is under contract through 2015, so Baltimore has already budgeted for his salary.
Again, I don’t know if Koch will be replaced in two years or if he’ll remain a Raven for life.
I will say this: You can’t be employed by the Ravens for as long as he has without doing many things well.
At his worst, he’s average.
At his best, he can be a Pro Bowler.