We're constantly told that special teams is one of the most important part of the games, so it has to be equally important to know who the best free agents on this team are.
Free agent kickers and punters are often aging players, too expensive for their former teams but just right for their new ones. Kickers and punters grow on trees, according to some, so there tends to be a surplus of them on the free agent market.
That means that the ones who do get signed must have some real ability. Here they are...
Olindo Mare's best days as an NFL kicker are definitely behind him, but you have to place a lot of weight on the fact that he continues to be brought back by teams each year.
Kickers are deemed to be expendable, so Mare's career that dates back to 1997 is just that much more impressive.
As recently as 2009, Mare served as a Pro Bowl alternate, so he's still very capable of hitting clutch field goals for his team. Luckily, that number should be kept low because his Carolina Panthers will be one of the NFL's worst teams.
Mare will, however, get a lot of chances for mid- to long-range kicks when the Panthers' offensive is stymied around the 30-yard line on drives.
Matt Turk is a three-time All-Pro selection, whose best years were with the Washington Redskins many years ago.
Still, the 43-year-old is a dependable punter who will be relied upon by his new Jacksonville Jaguars team. If Maurice Jones-Drew can have a healthy season, Turk's punts may be in support of a playoff-caliber team.
He's the oldest active player in the NFL, a feat unto itself, but Turk will contribute to Jacksonville, at least by allowing head coach Jack Del Rio focus on other aspects of the game.
Michael Koenen is probably a lesser-known player to many NFL fans, but his versatility will be valuable for his new team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
First off, the Bucs are one of the league's potential Cinderella teams, so his production will be vital to their success in 2011.
Koenen is a polished punter at 29 years old, averaging 42 yards per punt throughout his career. He also was the long-distance kicker for the Atlanta Falcons and nailed a 58 yarder in 2005. That's the ninth longest in NFL history.
When he wasn't launching long kicks for Atlanta, he was the placeholder for the regular kicker. This kind of willingness to do anything for the team can't be measured and makes Koenen a top free agent special teamer.
This pick is easy. Brad Maynard is one of the game's most reliable punters, as well as one of the coolest.
Maynard has managed to make it as a punter for 10 years as a Chicago Bear, no easy task in Soldier Field, and now gets to punt in the warm dome of the Houston Texans.
He'll bring his skill for fake punt throws and runs and his Sexiest Man on the Team he won in 2007. Both of these will surely come in hand for 2011.
The Texans (as always) have a chance at making the playoffs, so Maynard's signing is vote of confidence from Houston's management team.
Steve Weatherford is a fun punter to watch, if that's even possible.
He's quirky because he wears a watch during games. He's brave/stupid because he sometimes decides to fake a punt all on his own.
But he's definitely a high-quality punter. He tied an NFL record for most punts inside the 20 yard line in a season with 42 last year with the New York Jets.
Now that he's with the New York Giants, there will be little adjustment needed because they play in the same home stadium. Weatherford will only need to tune his ears into the less-abrasive Tom Coughlin (Has Coughlin ever been called less-abrasive?).
David Akers is a five-time All-Pro selection and member of the NFL 2000s All-Decade Team. He holds NFL records for points in a decade and most consecutive field goals made in the playoffs.
He has been a model of consistency at a terribly inconsistent position. So why again did the Philadelphia Eagles let him go? Someone is going to need to convert all those extra points!
Akers was signed to a three-year contract with the San Francisco 49ers. While they are pretty certain to struggle during 2011, by the end of Akers' contract, the 49ers could definitely be vying for an NFC West playoff bid.
He has fought the harsh, cold winds of the Philadelphia winters admirably, and I expect him to thrive in a better kicking climate.