Baltimore Ravens Sign Justin Tucker, Set Up Competition for Billy Cundiff

Shawn Brubaker@@63brubakerContributor IIMay 30, 2012

COLLEGE STATION, TX - NOVEMBER 24:  Justin Tucker #19 of the Texas Longhorns celebrates with teammates after kicking the winning field goal as time expired  in the second half of a game against the Texas A&M Aggies at Kyle Field on November 24, 2011 in College Station, Texas. Texas won the game, 27-25. (Photo by Darren Carroll/Getty Images)
Darren Carroll/Getty Images

Probably no undrafted free agent received more press in Baltimore than former Texas kicker Justin Tucker.

His tale to this point is full of twists and turns, but he has finally been signed to the Baltimore Ravens roster to compete with Billy Cundiff, according to the Ravens' website.

Tucker attended the Ravens rookie camp on a tryout basis and wowed coaches and reporters with a strong, accurate leg.

His performance was a highlight of the camp, so when the Ravens announced who they had signed from the tryouts, the exclusion of Tucker was a major surprise.

At that point, the Ravens appeared to want to avoid competition for the incumbent Cundiff, who, despite his assertions to the contrary, will likely struggle with his confidence in 2012. Keeping Cundiff as the only kicker would have asserted the Ravens' faith in him and helped build him back up to the kicker who was so excellent in 2010.

The story seemed closed at that point, but a stray tweet from Justin Tucker gave fans hope when he claimed he was heading back to Baltimore. The tweet was later deleted, and all hope of the Ravens signing competition for Cundiff seemed lost.

Finally, on Tuesday evening, the Ravens announced that they had signed Tucker. This comes as a major surprise at this point, considering their apparent disinterest throughout Tucker's brief time with the team.

To make room for him, the Ravens parted ways with Phillip Livas, a wide receiver and kick returner who was unlikely to make the team, though some fans have advocated on his behalf for the kick returner job.

The Ravens now have two kickers under contract. Does that mean that Billy Cundiff's job is in jeopardy?

The short answer is no. The Ravens front office seemingly adores Cundiff, consistently offering him verbal support.

Further, if the Ravens truly wanted to replace Cundiff, they would have signed one of the many solid free-agent kickers that were available, such as Neil Rackers or Shayne Graham.

That the Ravens only signed an undrafted free agent to compete with Cundiff shows that they still support him completely, and he will be the Ravens kicker in 2012.

Don't completely count Tucker out, though. There are two foreseeable ways he could become the Ravens' full-time kicker, though both are unlikely.

First, Tucker actually does replace Cundiff in camp, either through injury or by Tucker's own performance. This is the less likely option, but to discount it completely would be irresponsible.

Second, and more likely, is the Ravens sticking with Cundiff only to see him falter. Since the Ravens value continuity and players who have been with the team before, Tucker would be a natural replacement should the Ravens finally be ready to part ways with Cundiff.

In fact, assuming Tucker does not sign with another team, this second scenario could be very likely.

The Ravens are operating under the assumption that Cundiff's Pro Bowl season in 2010 is his usual standard, but truly, that season was anomalous. His 2011 field-goal percentage of 75.7 percent is much closer to his career average.

If Cundiff stays close to that career average, kicking well under 80 percent again, the Ravens could part ways with him. Since free-agent kickers can be a tough market in which to find quality, the Ravens could feel comfortable signing Tucker, who at that point would be familiar with the franchise.

That the Ravens finally are giving Tucker a shot is good news for fans, who simply can't support a kicker who missed such a routine, yet crucial kick.

Even though this signing really doesn't mean much now, even if Tucker doesn't make the team, his name will circulate around the Ravens for a long time. Don't be surprised if Tucker comes back to Baltimore someday in the future.