The Buffalo Bills locked up one half of their kicking duo last week by re-signing punter Brian Moorman.
They’d like to do the same with the other half – kicker Dan Carpenter.
“We’re going to reach out to his agents pretty soon and see if we can try to get something done,” Bills General Manager Doug Whaley said the day after the season ended.
But it might not be that simple.
Should he reach unrestricted free agency, it’s likely Carpenter will have plenty of suitors. That’s because he turned in one of the finest seasons by a kicker in Bills history.
Carpenter’s 33 field goals tied Steve Christie’s team record set in 1998, and tied for fifth most in the NFL this season. His percentage of 91.67 on made field goals was second best in franchise history to Rian Lindell’s 92 percent in 2006, and tied for 10th in the NFL. He was a strong 4 of 6 from 50 or more yards, and went a perfect 19 of 19 from inside 39 yards.
“Obviously, this is the best year of my career so far,” said Carpenter, a veteran of six seasons. “I’m excited to see what happens going forward. I haven’t really thought about it yet too much. I was just trying to help this team win as many games as it could this year, and I’ll see where it goes from there.”
Carpenter’s come a long way from last summer – when the Bills were his fourth team of training camp.
After being released by Miami, he had short stints with Arizona and the New York Jets before the Bills scrambled to sign him just five days before the season opener because of an injury suffered by rookie Dustin Hopkins.
“I never felt like my career was over. I knew I could kick the ball. That was never a thought that crossed my mind. Obviously, I’m happy to be here. Unfortunately, we couldn’t win a few more games and make a push to the playoffs, but I’m excited to see where this offseason goes,” he said. “My wife and I had a great time here. The organization, the fans, everyone’s been great.”
The question for the Bills is how much they’ll be willing to invest. Hopkins will be healthy and ready to compete for the job again in 2014, a year after he beat out Lindell as a rookie.
“Right now, I’m open to any and all things,” Carpenter said of the possibility of competing for a job. “Then once we kind of find out what the interest is out there, we’ll make a decision on what we want to do.”
Carpenter will be in line for a raise, whether it’s in Buffalo or someplace else. He made the veteran minimum for sixth-year players of $715,000 in 2013, but only counted $550,000 against the salary cap because the Bills used one of their three veteran exemptions.
The average salary of the 10 highest paid kickers in 2013 was $3.153 million.
“My wife and I are going to sit down and have a talk after we start finding out what’s going to happen, and we’re going to make the best decision for my playing days and also our family,” he said.
While Carpenter’s field-goal kicking was mostly spot-on, one area that could impact the Bills’ thinking is his kickoffs.
He had just 34 touchbacks, which ranked 23rd in the NFL. That was 41 percent of his 83 kickoffs, a percentage that ranked 28th in the NFL.
After the Bills kicked off, opposing teams had an average drive start of the 23.11-yard line, according to Football Outsiders, which ranked 25th in the NFL.
Hopkins was drafted in the sixth round in 2013 in part because of a strong leg for kickoffs.
It’s undetermined how much that will factor into the Bills’ decision-making. A kicker’s primary responsibility, of course, is to put points on the board, and few in franchise history have put up more in a single season than Carpenter. His total of 131, in fact, ranks third in single-season history, behind the 140 by Christie in 1998 and the 138 by O.J. Simpson in 1975.
“Points are hard to come by in this league, so anytime we’re close enough to get points it’s an opportunity and I’m happy to go out there and help,” he said.
Bills linebacker Kiko Alonso was named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in a vote of the Pro Football Writers of America.
Green Bay running back Eddie Lacy won the overall NFL Rookie of the Year award from the writers group, which comprises about 300 members from across the country.
Alonso, the Bills’ second-round draft pick, finished third in the NFL in tackles an also had four interceptions. San Diego receiver Keenan Allen won the offensive rookie of the year award.
Meanwhile, no Bills made the PFWA’s all-pro or All-AFC teams.
The Buffalo Bills have signed three more players, including Arcade native Randy Colling, to futures contracts.
Also added to the roster were former Baltimore Ravens running back Anthony Allen and defensive end Kourtnei Brown.
Colling attended Pioneer High School and Division II Gannon University in Erie, Pa. He spent 2013 as a defensive lineman with the Cleveland Gladiators of the Arena Football League, but the Bills will switch him to offensive guard.
Colling had four sacks, three forced fumbles and two recoveries for the Gladiators. As a senior at Gannon in 2011, he recorded 88 tackles, 21.5 tackles for loss, nine sacks, a forced fumble, a recovery and two blocked kicks.
Allen was a 2011 seventh-round draft choice out of Georgia Tech. He played every game in 2012 – almost exclusively on special teams – for the Super Bowl champs. He was Baltimore’s third back and scored one rushing touchdown.
More notably, Allen was kick returner Jacoby Jones’ lead blocker, helping him score four touchdowns.
The Bills could use Allen’s help to generate more action there. They set a franchise record for fewest kickoff returns with 23 this season.
Brown was on Washington’s practice squad in 2012 and spent last offseason with Buffalo before getting cut.
News Sports Reporters Mark Gaughan and Tim Graham contributed to this report.