NFL.com, the San Francisco Chronicle and other Bay Area papers are reporting today that the Oakland Raiders have signed Shane Lechler to a four-year contract that makes Lechler the highest-paid punter in the NFL.
While many doubted the Raiders would be able to keep both Lechler and Nnamdi Asomugha, the team's only representatives to the Pro Bowl this year, it appears the Raiders managed it.
The four-year contract is reported to be worth approximately $12 million with $4 million guaranteed. The Raiders would not confirm the exact financial terms of the deal but John Herrera called Lechler's contract "the best ever given to a punter in the history of the National Football League."
The Raiders drafted Lechler in 2000 out of Texas A&M and he quickly became the premier punter in the league. He currently holds the NFL all-time record for career gross yardage average of 46.8-yards per punt. Additionally, in 2007, he set the NFL single season record with a 41.1-yard net punting average.
Lechler's value is also felt on coverage as there is a reason only two punts have been returned on him. He is an athletic punter who is more than willing to chase down a returner and make a tackle.
Not only can Lechler put some air under the ball (he had a punt of at least 50 yards in every game last season) but he can do it accurately to pin teams deep (30 punts inside the 20, third in the NFL).
Moreover, Lechler is difficult to block since he normally gets his punts off in less than 2.1 seconds.
Lechler forms one of the last links to the championship Raider teams from 2000 - 2002.
Retaining Lechler will also provide the Raiders with stability in the kicking game as Lechler has been the holder for Sebastian Janikowski with whom he came into the league in 2000.