Baltimore Ravens Had No Option but to Release Billy Cundiff

Andrea HangstFeatured Columnist IVAugust 27, 2012

This is the last field goal of meaning for Billy Cundiff in Baltimore. Not a fond remembrance.
This is the last field goal of meaning for Billy Cundiff in Baltimore. Not a fond remembrance.Al Bello/Getty Images

If anyone knows that the NFL is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately work environment, it's Billy Cundiff, the now-former Baltimore Ravens kicker.

Cundiff was deposed in favor of undrafted rookie Justin Tucker, who impressed in rookie minicamp and was offered a contract. It was clear Cundiff's time was up last week when Tucker got all of the work in the team's Week 3 preseason contest, a move that apparently "shocked" Cundiff.

What began as a veteran kicker seeking a season of redemption after missing what would have been a game-tying field goal at the end of regulation in the team's AFC Championship loss to the New England Patriots became a full-on competition this summer, and as training camp progressed it was clear that with every kick, Cundiff had less and less of a grasp on the starting job.

In camp, Cundiff converted 88 of his 105 field goal attempts, for an 83.8 field-goal percentage; Tucker, on the other hand, converted 96 of his 103 attempts, which is 93.2 percent. Numbers like that certainly make it easier to replace a veteran with a rookie.

Cundiff's field-goal percentage has been quite inconsistent on a yearly basis over his eight years in the league, but he's been outstanding just once—in 2010, when he completed 89.7 percent of his attempts. That dropped off considerably in 2011, with a conversion percentage of just 75.7 percent. Likely, the Ravens had thought about the potential to replace Cundiff after the 2011 season before the heartbreaking miss against New England.

Financially, this move makes even more sense. A year ago Cundiff signed a five-year, $14.7 million contract with a $3 million signing bonus as he came off of a Pro Bowl season and he was set to make $2.8 million total in 2012.

According to Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun, Cundiff's release frees up $1.8 million for the Ravens this year, along with costing them $600,000 this year and $1.3 million in the next in dead money related to the proration of his roster bonus. In contrast, Tucker is set to make just $390,000 this year and has no bonus.

That $1.8 million could go a long way in Baltimore, which before this move was just $3.123 million under the cap. They are still trying to negotiate an extension for starting quarterback Joe Flacco as well as find a way to pay safety Ed Reed what he's worth beyond 2012. 

Further, a $2.8 million payday is far too high for a kicker who performed at Cundiff's level last year. If he would have continued his 2010-style production in 2011, there would be no question that Cundiff would still be the starter, even if he had missed that field goal against the Patriots. But he didn't, and the Ravens need the money.

Baltimore was faced with a better option at the kicker position, for a better price. That's music to any franchise's ears, and doubly so for a team as in need of some cap room as the Ravens.

The deck was stacked against Cundiff heading into camp, and he didn't do enough to make it feasible for them to keep him. So it goes, in the forever-fickle NFL.