Sunday, June 24, 2012

Marquette King Just Might Push Shane Lechler in Raiders Training Camp

Special teams is an often overlooked area when watching football games. A field goal, a punt or kick return can make or break a game. Giving away field position or gaining it, is really important to set up your offense or defense.

Al Davis was very aware of the importance of special teams. For a number of years now, Shane Lechler has handled the punting duties and Sebastian "I need GHB to get laid" Janikowski has handled kicking duties.  Both of those guys are all-pro caliber.  A key man in the mix for both Lechler and Jano is long snapper Jon Condo who made all-pro as well by virtue of his alliance with the pair.

As for kick and punt return duties (receiving and coverage), that seems more wide open, considering the number of new guys in camp trying to win roster spots. Those guys will not be paid anywhere close to what Lechler and Jano make. Both will make 4 million a year.

When Reggie McKenzie was hired as GM of the Raiders, one of his main tasks is getting a handle on the salary cap and either waiving players or renegotiating some current salaries. Some of the moves Reggie made were clear cut, others, he has not tipped his hand as of yet.

A field goal kicker is very important and you're not going to find anyone on the market with Jano's range.  Plus, his consistency has improved the last few seasons.  You have to pay him, but it is pretty obvious you don't need to spend millions on a punter.

Granted. Lechler is the best in the business.  You are just not going to find a punter with Lechler's skill or anywhere close. It's more than just booting long bombs.  Placement and accuracy is crucial.  Lechler pretty much is a hall of famer in this regard.  Still, 4 million cuts into much needed cap space needed to sign players for other roster needs.

I don't have any insight into the Raiders cap situation. It is a complicated area but I would speculate the signing of free agent punter Marquette King indicates Reggie is at least thinking about the near future at punter. Lechler may still be a Raider in 2012 but beyond that, the job could be King's if he seriously earns his keep in training camp.

Marquette King is a young guy, just graduated college, and he has a thundering leg. He's quite an athletic specimen as well with intense training habits. It seems amazing he was not drafted or signed quicker to a free agent contract.  Check out Marquette King in action.

McKenzie spotted his talent and I suspect he's not being brought in simply as a camp leg either.  It would not be unusual to bring in a young punter of King's quality to learn and gain experience, especially when you have the best in the business under contract already.  I just have to believe at the very least King will be a practice squad addition in 2012.  It would be a shocker if Lechler was traded but if King pans out, Lechler is one of few trade bait items Reggie has to work with. It seems reasonable other teams would be willing to absorb Lechler's 4 million salary.

It would be a blow to the ego of many die hard Raiders fans to lose Shane Lechler but at least you know Marquette King has arrived to fill that role and then some, should things develop that way.

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