Tough Decision Looming on Crosby

Mason Crosby will be one of the Packers' 12 unrestricted free agents. Crosby's career numbers simply haven't been good enough but he might be ready for a breakout year. So, Green Bay could choose to franchise him or tap into a strong draft class.

Of the Green Bay Packers' lengthy list of free agents, one of the more intriguing names is kicker Mason Crosby.

There are plenty of reasons for the Packers to want to re-sign Crosby – possibly even name him their franchise player by the March 24 deadline. Crosby has the powerful leg necessary to be effective at Lambeau Field in December. He can hit every type of kickoff imaginable, helping to mitigate the damage against a dreadful coverage unit, and he's a weapon on onside kicks. He's not afraid to stick his shoulder into a returner to prevent a long return.

"He is a very solid kicker," special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum said. "He is a very talented guy with a big leg. He has to deal with some wind conditions that a lot of the guys in indoor stadiums or in the South don't have to deal with. He has done a great job with that. His mind-set is excellent in dealing with that. He is a very solid player."

But then there are the numbers, which say the Packers have been getting by with a substandard kicker.

-- Among kickers with at least 16 attempts (one per game), Crosby ranked 22nd in percentage at 78.6 on 22-of-28 accuracy.

-- For his four-year career, Crosby has made 78.1 percent of his attempts.

-- He's never hit better than 80 percent in a single season. For necessary perspective, middle of the road this season was 82.6 percent. Nine teams finished at 88.0 percent – almost a full 10 percent better than Crosby.

-- He hasn't gotten better: His best season, percentage-wise, came during his rookie season. But after hitting 79.5 percent in 2007, he hit 79.4 percent in 2008, 75.0 in 2009 and the 78.6 this season.

-- He's hit just one game-winner in his career, in his NFL debut in 2007 against Philadelphia, though he hasn't had a lot of opportunities since then. This year, he nailed the right upright from 53 yards with a shot to beat Washington. At Minnesota in 2008, he just missed from 52 yards. His one short chance came in 2008, but his 38-yarder at Chicago was blocked.

-- It's not just the weather, though that no doubt has impacted Crosby's career numbers. Chicago's Robbie Gould kicks in the toughest stadium in the NFL but is the fifth-most accurate kicker in league history at 85.5 percent.

On the bright side, he finished the regular season by making 9-of-10 field goals. He hit 3-of-4 in the playoffs, plunking the left upright from 50 yards in the friendly confines of the Georgia Dome.

Plus, it's been a revolving door at holder because of the revolving door at punter. With Crosby's improved accuracy down the stretch and with punter Tim Masthay all but assured of handling those duties again next season, Crosby could be poised for a breakout season.

The franchise-player numbers have not been released – and if you believe the NFL Players Association, the franchise tag doesn't exist anyway. The franchise tender is based on the average of the top five players at that position. Last year, that was $2.814 million but with a new deal for Sebastien Janikowski and raises for a couple other top kickers, the franchise tag is expected to be $3.26 million, according to Mac's Football Blog.

The Packers obviously like Crosby. Even with his subpar accuracy, he's gone into the last three training camps without a challenger after beating out Dave Rayner as a sixth-round pick. But this is a strong class with perhaps as many as five draft-worthy kickers, headlined by the clutch and powerful leg of Nebraska's Alex Henery. He hit 18-of-19 as a senior – his only miss was from 51 yards – and he went 12-for-12 in bowl games.

"I want to be a Packer," Crosby said after the Return to Titletown celebration.

Whether or not he will remains to be seen.


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.


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