Why the Kansas City Chiefs Were Foolish to Walk Dustin Colquitt to the Bank

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Why the Kansas City Chiefs Were Foolish to Walk Dustin Colquitt to the Bank
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas City Chiefs paid more money to punter Dustin Colquitt Monday than all but one team in NFL history has for a player at his position. 

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Colquitt and the Chiefs agreed to a five-year deal worth $18.75 million, including $8.9 million guaranteed. 

The only deal for a punter worth more in total value? Michael Koenen's six-year deal worth $19.5 million signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2011. 

Colquitt's deal is for only five years, however, which makes him the NFL's highest-paid punter in terms of average salary. Colquitt will make $3.75 million per season through 2017. 

The next closest punter in average salary is Mike Scifres of the San Diego Chargers, who makes $3.6 million per year. He signed a five-year, $18 million deal with $9 million guaranteed in 2011. 

Shane Lechler's four-year, $16 million deal that expired after 2012 still remains the high-water mark for average salary. 

Top average salaries for punters in 2013, via Spotrac.

All these big numbers beg the question: Is Colquitt worth such a historic chunk of change? 

On one hand, Colquitt did place 45 punts inside the 20-yard line last season, second only to Dave Zastudil's 46. However, Zastudil needed 29 more punts (112) to get to 46 than Colquitt's total of 83.

In fact, over half of Colquitt's punts (54.1 percent) ended up inside the 20 in 2012.

In theory, few abilities are more valuable for a punter than being able to consistently place the ball inside the opponent's 20-yard line. The longer an offense has to go to score points, the better chance your defense has of getting the ball back with good field position. 

Colquitt also allowed returns on just 32.5 percent of his punts last season, second only to Chicago's Adam Podlesh (30.9). 

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

For his efforts in 2012, Colquitt was rightfully named to the 2012 Pro Bowl. It was his first career selection. 

However, it's worth wondering if a one-year boom from Colquitt lured the Chiefs into giving the punter a deal that's beyond his actual worth. 

Colquitt finished 2012 ranked 13th in yards per punt at 46.8, well behind league leader Brandon Fields at 50.2. But such a finish is nothing new for Colquitt—only twice has he cracked the top 10 in yards per kick during a given year and even those seasons (seventh in 2007 and ninth in 2009) were not top-five efforts. 

Among active punters, Colquitt ranks just 15th in average punt distance. 

Net average is an equally important stat for punters, but Colquitt finished at just 40.8 in 2012—good for 10th in the NFL. 

Colquitt's history of kicking inside the 20-yard line is also worth examining. 

While his rate of 45 punts inside the 20-yard line on just 83 attempts was astounding last season, it was also well above his career mark of just 38.1 percent. Only twice in seven prior seasons had Colquitt even been over 40 percent, much less 50. 

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And maybe, just maybe, Colquitt's Pro Bowl season in 2012 was a touch overrated.

According to Pro Football Focus, Colquitt graded out as just the sixth-best punter in the NFL last season. Houston's Donnie Jones, Indianapolis' Pat McAfee (recently franchise-tagged for just $2.7 million) and Miami's Brandon Fields each graded out higher than Colquitt from the AFC. 

In addition, over PFF's entire five-year existence, Colquitt has yet to grade out in the top five of NFL punters. 

While PFF is not the be-all, end-all for grading players, the service does provide an unbiased look at the position using a number of factors. In its eyes, Colquitt is not an elite NFL punter.

All that said, the Chiefs made the correct decision to lock up a player they felt was a special-teams asset long-term. Colquitt's five-year deal will mean very little worry at punter over the next half-decade in Kansas City.

But a deeper look into Colquitt's career and overall punting analytics provides evidence that the Chiefs were likely drawn into a much bigger deal than the 31-year-old punter deserved.

Colquitt isn't the premier player at his position, but he'll be paid like it over the next five years.

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