Fascinating Free Agency: Mason Crosby

Bill Huber

GREEN BAY, Wis. – Of the Green Bay Packers’ 15 unrestricted free agents, the future of three is especially fascinating. Right tackle Bryan Bulaga had an excellent season but has a lengthy injury history. Inside linebacker Blake Martinez is a tackling machine with limitations. Kicker Mason Crosby will turn 36 just before the start of next season.

We examine their futures in this three-part series, which led off with Bulaga and continues with Crosby.

Resume: Crosby had the best season of his career from an accuracy standpoint, his 22-of-24 on field goals equating to 91.7 percent – his first season of 90-plus percent in his 13-year career. In fact, since his infamous five-miss game at Detroit in Week 5 of the 2018 season, Crosby has missed a total of five kicks in his last 29 games: 41-of-45 on field goals and 72-of-73 on extra points. Including one missed extra point this year, Crosby missed a total of three kicks while making game-winners in both games against Detroit.

Sign him: The reasons for signing Crosby are obvious. He’s coming off a terrific season and he’s got priceless experience in cold-weather games. This year, for instance, the Packers played four frosty games in December and January. At this point, who else would you rather have kicking the ball with the season on the line on a 10-degree day at Lambeau?

Moreover, as Adam Vinatieri has shown, age can be but a number for a kicker. Crosby will turn 36 on Sept. 3. During four seasons from age 43 through age 46, Vinatieri made a combined 87.4 percent of his field-goal attempts. Last year, at age 36, Robbie Gould made 97.1 percent of his field-goal attempts for San Francisco.

Crosby wants to stay and it’s hard to imagine the Packers wouldn’t want him back.

“I’ve been so fortunate to have a few contracts here,” he said. “I’ve never hit free agency. We’ll see if that happens again. I’m optimistic that we’ll at least have the conversations and, hopefully, try to get something done.”

Let him go: Finding a kicker is a crapshoot. In some ways, it’s easy. Most of the league’s kickers entered the league as undrafted free agents. Baltimore’s Justin Tucker, who might go down in history as the best kicker of all-time, entered the league as an undrafted free agent. In fact, this year’s four most-accurate kickers – Jacksonville’s Josh Lambo, Tucker, Pittsburgh’s Chris Boswell and Minnesota’s Dan Bailey – went undrafted. So, with some good fortune, the Packers could get a kicker just as good as Crosby while saving a lot of money.

Then again, finding a kicker can be difficult. Look at Minnesota. The Vikings drafted Daniel Carlson in the fifth round in 2018 and traded a fifth-round pick for Kaare Vedvik in 2019. Neither played for the Vikings this season. Chicago’s troubles have been well-documented. Tennessee’s menagerie of kickers combined to make an unthinkable 44.4 percent. Those teams – two division rivals and a team that reached a conference championship game – no doubt would love to find some stability. As perhaps the best kicker in the free-agent market, Crosby could be a hot – and expensive – commodity.

“I think in our position, I have to always view it as a business,” he said. “Obviously, I have personal relationships here in Green Bay and strong ties with this team for the last 13 years. The guys in this locker room, the relationships I have with the coaches and the personnel guys upstairs, it’s been home for me for a long time. It’s hard to think about anything else but I’ll have to be mindful that it is a business and I have to prepare myself for that.”

Finally, there’s no guarantee Crosby will be this good next season, let alone in Year 2 or Year 3 of a new contract. In fact, for his career, he’s at 81.0 percent on field goals, so this year was the outlier. Moreover, the aforementioned Gould went from 97.1 percent in 2018 to 74.2 percent in 2019. The 37-year-old Gould and the 47-year-old Vinatieri (career-worst 68.0 percent) were the only full-time kickers 36 or older in the league this season.

The quote: “Taking care of the mind as much as I do my body,” Crosby said of the key to success at his age. “Just making sure that through this next couple weeks, the next couple months, get my mind-set right to prepare for another offseason and another season. It’s long. To think about where we started in April to this point, it’s been a long year and a lot of mental and physical stress. I’ll take a couple weeks here, get the mind and body right, and start going into offseason mode and preparing for another, regardless of what the situation holds.”

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