Reports today that the Bengals are using the franchise tag on PK Shayne Graham. He joins Falcons punter Michael Koenen as specialists who have earned the franchise tag this offseason. How do these moves compare? The nuts and bolts of each move are listed below; you can see them in with other franchise players in this post.
PK Shayne Graham, Bengals – Graham is a consistent kicker (85.6 percent field goals in his career), and he has found a home in Cincinnati after bouncing around as kickers often do at the beginning of their careers. Graham is a good kicker, but he’s not a game-changer. But given the Bengals’ free-agency status – and WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh’s vocal desire to leave – it makes at least a little sense to keep the guy who wants to stay. But Graham, while a good kicker, isn’t so much better than the rest of kickers that he deserves to be paid as a top-five guy. So this is a marginal move for a team that must make some serious upgrades in free agency to move forward.
P Michael Koenen, Falcons – Koenen has developed into quite a weapon for the Falcons. He was the king of no-return punts this year, as the Falcons allowed just 49 punt return yards all season. (That’s a league record.) Koenen’s leg strength is also a boon on kickoffs (he had 16 touchbacks), which allows the Falcons to use veteran kicker Jason Elam’s reliability on field goals without wasting a roster spot on a kickoff-only specialist. Koenen’s net-yardage speciality makes him one of the top punters in the league, so it’s fair – and smart – for the Falcons to pay him as such. (Thanks to this article for some background info.)