Philadelphia Eagles: Should Alex Henery Return in 2014?

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Philadelphia Eagles: Should Alex Henery Return in 2014?
Tim Sharp/Associated Press

The Philadelphia Eagles’ surprise season came to a harsh finish in the 2013 NFC Wild Card Game. A 26-24 loss to the New Orleans Saints was magnified by the fact that kicker Alex Henery missed a 48-yard field goal, proving to be the difference in the game.

It’s the second straight playoff loss for the Eagles that came down to their kicker.

In 2010, the team lost by five to the Green Bay Packers, with David Akers missing a pair of easy field goals. Andy Reid elected not to re-sign Akers, instead drafting Henery with a fourth-round selection.

Henery endured a rough season before hitting a long field goal in three straight games down the stretch. Then he came apart in the playoffs, hooking a 48-yarder way to the left. That certainly won’t make his jersey a top seller in Philadelphia.

To be fair, Henery is probably a little better than most Eagles fans realize. He’s sixth on the NFL’s all-time field-goal accuracy charts, checking in at 86.05 percent. That puts him behind just Justin Tucker (91.89 percent), Dan Bailey (90.82 percent), Blair Walsh (89.71 percent), Mike Vanderjagt (86.47 percent) and Nate Kaeding (86.19 percent).

Henery doesn’t have ideal leg strength, as he’s made just two field goals of 50-plus yards in his three-year career. The Eagles really altered their game plan in 2013, not even letting him attempt many at that distance. Per Pro Football Focus, Henery was just 23rd among regular kickers in field-goal accuracy (82.1 percent) and 27th in average kickoff distance (64.7 yards).

Tim Donnelly/Associated Press

Henery made just eight field goals of 40 or more yards, going 8-of-12 on those kicks. From 2011-2012, though, Henery was 15-of-16 on field goals from 40-49 yards. It’s possible he just slumped this past season.

In 2014, Henery is set to enter the final year of his four-year rookie deal, and he will earn $645,000 in base salary. That’s not a lot of money to pay at all, and it’s not as if the Eagles can just pick up a kicker off the street who will be more accurate than Henery has been on shorter field goals.

There are a handful of kickers around the league hitting free agency should Chip Kelly want to make it a camp competition for Henery. Adam Vinatieri is available, and he’s coming off of a remarkable season in which he led the NFL with 19 field goals from 40-plus yards. Then again, Vinatieri is the league’s oldest player, and it doesn’t really make sense to replace Henery with a stopgap like Vinatieri.

Steven Hauschka performed well enough in Seattle that he should be re-signed. Phil Dawson and Jay Feely are both free agents, but they will command about four times what Henery is set to be paid. Rian Lindell could be an option, although he’s not much better, if at all, and he doesn’t handle kickoffs.

Graham Gano was remarkably successful in 2013 for the Carolina Panthers. He led the NFL in average kickoff distance (72.0) and hit all six field goals from 50-plus yards. There’s no way the Panthers let him walk. A reunion with David Akers doesn’t seem plausible. Simply put, there aren’t too many options out there.

The best bet for Kelly would be to bring in a veteran kicker like Billy Cundiff or Shayne Graham to battle it out with Henery next camp. But realistically, it looks like the Eagles will be bringing Henery back and simply hoping they get the 2011-12 kicker instead of the ’13 version.

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