Picking a kicker likely slams door on Akers' return

Picking a kicker likely slams door on Akers' return
May 1, 2011, 3:07 am
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Saturday, April 30, 2011
Posted: 11:06 p.m.

By Reuben Frank

When David Akers rejected the Eagles one-year transition tag, it essentially closed the door on Akers returning to the Eagles.

When they drafted a kicker in the fourth round Saturday, it essentially slammed that door shut. And locked it.

Hes taking it in stride, Voorhees-based agent Jerrold Colton said. Hes been around a long time, and understands how the business works, and hes anxious to see where hes going to land.

Akers has made 82 percent of his career field goal attempts, has gone to five Pro Bowls including the last two and was named to the Eagles 75th Anniversary All-Time Team.

But things began to go downhill between Akers and the Eagles soon after he missed 34 and 41-yard field goals in the five-point wildcard playoff loss to the Packers. Immediately after the game, Reid said, We can all count. Those points would have helped.

Although Reid was simply answering a question about how costly the two misses were, some perceived the comment as a cheap shot at Akers, especially in light of the very serious health issue Akers young daughter was going through at the time.

The Eagles placed the transition tag on Akers after the season, guaranteeing him about 2.8 million if he signed. But he didnt sign the tag while he still had the chance, leaving free agency as the likely next option.

That appears about to happen, whenever free agency finally begins.

The Eagles drafted Nebraska kicker Alex Henery in the fourth round on Saturday. Henery made 90 percent of his field goal attempts in college, 95 percent as a senior.

A fourth-round pick is a pretty major commitment. Henery is the first kicker drafted that high by any NFL team in five years, since the Patriots took Stephen Gostkowski out of Memphis with the 118th pick in 2006.

Since 1950, there have been only 41 kickers taken in the first four rounds of the draft. The Eagles hadnt drafted any kicker in any round in 27 years.

Akers scored more points (1,323) and played in more games (188) than anybody in franchise history.

He was third in the league last season with 23 touchbacks, but his kickoff strength will be neutralized thanks to the new NFL rule calling for kickoffs from the 35 instead of the 30.
What if Henery struggles in minicamp or cant handle the pressure of the NFL or is unable to adjust to the NFL ball?

By the time the Eagles have a chance to see him kick in practice, Akers will likely already be with his new team.

Eagles punter Sav Rocca, like Akers, is also a veteran without a contract. Henery also did some punting in college, although hes not considered a big-time NFL punting prospect.

Well just see how everything goes with our kicker and punter ... but we sure are glad to have Alex aboard, Reid said. He was the best in college football and at this particular time it was hard to pass him up.

What about Akers?

Reid refused to speculate.

Well listen, I havent even gone there with general manager Howie Roseman, Reid said. But I will tell you that Henery is a good kicker. And so well talk about that as we go here.

Its difficult to imagine Reid and Roseman havent even talked about Akers future. They wouldnt have drafted Henery in the fourth round if they hadnt discussed the fact that the greatest kicker in franchise history just happens to be without a contract.

Reid said Akers contract status had nothing to do with the Henery pick.

Its more about this kid just being a good kicker, he said. Right now, Davids with us.

Even Colton wouldnt completely shut the door on Akers, whose 85.3 percent accuracy the last two years is sixth-highest in the NFL.

All indications are that Henery is going to be here you dont waste fourth-round picks but Im not willing to say its impossible for him to return here, Colton said. There are no guarantees of anything right now except that David will be kicking somewhere next year.

E-mail Reuben Frank at rfrank@comcastsportsnet.com

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