Sebastian Janikowski's Record Deal Might Have Been the Right Call

Kendrick MarshallCorrespondent IFebruary 18, 2010

OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 19:  Sebastian Janikowski #11 of the Oakland Raiders celebrates after kicking a 57 yard field goal in overtime against the New York Jets during an NFL game on October 19, 2008 at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Maybe Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis is onto something in making Sebastian Janikowski the NFL's highest-paid kicker.

With Janikowski signing a record four-year, $16 million deal, it forces the football world to analyze the value of not only special teams players, but place-kickers.

Janikowski is the Raiders' all-time leader in points scored, tallying 1,000 during his 10-year career for a franchise that has been close to the bottom of offensive output since the 2002 Super Bowl season.  Just by flipping through any NFL record book, one would see that kickers—not quarterbacks, running backs, or wide receivers—usually appear near the top in terms of scoring. 

In 2009 alone, the stout Polish kicker scored 95 of the Raiders' 197 points.  Only the St. Louis Rams, who totaled 175 points, scored less than Oakland.  It's not a stretch to say Janikowski was the Raiders' most valuable player.  

Janikowski concluded the season making a career-high 89.7 percent of his field-goal tries.

So how valuable was Janikowski compared to the rest of the kicking field?

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According to the Elias Sports Bureau, place-kickers converted on only 80 percent of field-goals in 2009.  That's a dramatic drop from the 84 percent clip in 2008.  On kicks of 50 or more yards, the league average was 53.2 percent.  On attempts between 40-49 yards, kickers were successful 71 percent of the time.  Janikowski was 6-of-8 on 50-yarders and 9-of-10 from 40 yards and beyond.  He was even better away from Oakland, going 10-for-10 from 40 or more yards.

Chicago Bears' kicker Robbie Gould, who signed a lucrative five-year, $13.5 million deal in 2008, has only made two field goals from 50 yards in five career attempts.

Over his career, Janikowski has been efficient, making 78.4 percent of his field-goal attempts.  That percentage is a far cry from the likes of Nate Kaeding (87.2), Shayne Graham (85.2), Stephen Gostkowski (85.1), or Matt Stover (83.6) who kicked in Super Bowl XLIV for the Indianapolis Colts.

But one could argue that Janikowski has had to make longer kicks due to Oakland's poor offense.  Janikowski averaged 42.6 yard per attempt, while Kaeding, who missed three field goals in the postseason against the New York Jets, averaged 32.2 yard per attempt.

It doesn't mean Janikowski is better than Kaeding.  But it does speak to the difficulty he faces compared to his peers.

The kicking game has always been one of the more overlooked aspects of the game. Place-kickers especially have been devalued as men who don't have tremendous roles in NFL win-loss outcomes because they perform only a few times each game. 

But they do. Just ask the San Diego Chargers.  It is akin to saying that most MLB closers don't have an impact on the game just because they pitch one inning.

Should a field-goal kicker make $16 million?  It depends on how valuable he is to your team.  Janikowski is obviously a valuable piece to the Raiders' success.

Will this contract open up Pandora's Box and have place kickers all over the league demanding more money?  I think kickers should.  They are just as important as skill position players on offense and defense. A reliable kicker can contribute to division championships, playoff wins, and Super Bowl trophies.

New Orleans Saints place-kicker Garrett Hartley won the NFC Championship Game with a 40-yard field goal and made four big kicks during Super Bowl XLIV to help his team secure its first NFL championship.

Davis and the Raiders might have started a new trend in signing Janikowski to a big contract.