Shane Lechler Has Likely Punted His Last Ball as an Oakland Raider

D.J. O'ConnorSenior Analyst IIIJanuary 5, 2013

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 16:  Sebastian Janikowski #11 and Shane Lechler #9 of the Oakland Raiders celebrate after Janikowski kicked a fifty-seven yard field goal against the Kansas City Chiefs in the second quarter at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on December 16, 2012 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The Oakland Raiders have 17 unrestricted free agents going into 2013 and among them is veteran punter Shane Lechler.  

On any of 31 teams in the NFL you wouldn't care too much about the contract status of the punter—and that brings us to the 32nd team in the NFL: the Oakland Raiders.

The Raiders used their fifth round draft pick on Shane Lechler in 2000—the same year they took Sebastian Janikowski in the first round—and since that draft they have had one of the best special teams units in the NFL.  

Janikowski, who owns a share of the NFL record for longest field goal at 63 yards, is in field goal range once the offense crosses midfield, and Lechler, with a career long punt of 80 yards, can pin opponents deep no matter how far back the offense stalls.

Lechler scared the Raiders once before back in 2009 when he was expected to hit unrestricted free agency before agreeing to become the NFL's highest-paid punter with a contract worth $16 million over four years.

Now, those four years are up and so is Lechler's time in Oakland.  Whether or not Lechler wants to return and retire as a Raider or not.

The situation is in the hands of Reggie McKenzie and Dennis Allen.  McKenzie's most famous line in his short time in Oakland has been how he plans to sort out some "out of whack" contracts.  

Many would argue that, despite Lechler being one of the best punters in NFL history, it is "out of whack" to pay a punter $4 million a year.  

As sad as a day it would be in Raider Nation to see Lechler punting for another team after his 13 years wearing silver and black, the writing has been on the wall since training camp that Lechler was on his way out the door.

The Raiders placed another punter, Marquette King, on the injured reserved list so that they could keep him with the team rather than cut him when they had to reduce their roster size down towards 53.  King has a strong leg, like Lechler, but is still a work in progress.  

Unless the seven-time Pro Bowler Lechler agrees to a new contract paying him far less than what he was paid the last four years, he is on his way out of Oakland.