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Packers Seeking Veteran to Challenge Kicker Anders Carlson

Even as Anders Carlson went through growing pains as a rookie, the Packers did not add a veteran kicker. That might change, given this bit of news in NFL free agency.
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers almost signed a veteran kicker to serve as a true challenger to Anders Carlson, a league source told Packer Central.

The identity of the kicker will be withheld for this story. However, he has been a full-time kicker for multiple seasons.

According to the source, the Packers offered him a contract and the kicker agreed to it, only for him to have a change of heart and sign with another team.

That the Packers missed out on a veteran isn’t the story. Rather, it’s the confirmation that general manager Brian Gutekunst is looking to create a real competition – one that Carlson didn’t have last year as he sailed solo through training camp, the preseason and throughout an inconsistent rookie season.

“I’m excited to see what he does in Year 2, but there will be competition in the room,” Gutekunst said at the Scouting Combine.

Former Georgia standout Jack Podlesny was signed after the season. He was with the Minnesota Vikings for the start of training camp last summer but was released without kicking in a preseason game.

Just like most positions, kicker has been picked over during the first week-plus of NFL free agency. Eight veterans have signed. The last three experienced kickers available are Greg Joseph (82.6 percent on field goals in five seasons for the Browns, Titans and Vikings), Brett Maher (79.9 percent on field goals in five seasons for the Cowboys, Saints, Cowboys again and Rams) and Randy Bullock (83.4 percent for six teams over 11 seasons).

A scout said the 28-year-old Joseph would be his pick over the 34-year-old Maher and Bullock.

Carlson was a sixth-round draft pick last year, the last of three kickers selected.

His rookie season started with a bang. Through five weeks, he was 7-of-7 on field goals and 10-of-10 on extra points. However, he missed one kick in 10 of the final 12 games in the regular season and both playoff games. Among the misses: a 43-yard field goal in a two-point loss at Denver, an extra point that forced the Packers to try to score a late touchdown in a four-point loss to Pittsburgh and a 45-yard field goal in a two-point loss to the Giants.

With the Packers marching into a divisional-round showdown at the 49ers, Carlson stuck in a miss-a-game rut and special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia increasingly agitated by questions, the team never really considered adding a veteran.

“We’d like to get through it without any hiccups, but I think it’s part of the process,” coach Matt LaFleur said at the time.

Predictably, there was another hiccup. In the three-point loss to the Niners, Carlson missed a 41-yard field goal that would have given the Packers a 24-17 lead midway through the fourth quarter. The 49ers took the miss and drove to the decisive touchdown.

In regular-season action, nobody missed more kicks than Carlson’s 11. Of 31 kickers who tried at least 20 field goals, Carlson finished 23rd on field goals with an 81.8 percent success rate. He missed a league-high five extra points.

The Packers wouldn’t have had to give up on the obviously talented Carlson. They could have signed a veteran to the practice squad and elevated him for the games. Instead, they gambled and lost that Carlson could work his way through his inconsistency with the season on the line.

The other drafted kickers were Jake Moody by the 49ers in the third round and Chad Ryland by the Patriots in the fourth round. Moody ranked 19th in field-goal accuracy (84.0 percent) and missed one extra point. Ryland was worst in the NFL on field goals (64.0 percent) and also missed one extra point.

“He’s got to improve,” Gutekunst said of Carlson. “That’s important. I thought he did some really good things this year and he improved as the year went on, but that’s going to be important, and competition is going to be part of that. 

“I think he had a good rookie year. You look at rookie years in the past around here, it’s tough to kick in this weather, as everyone knows. I think he had a pretty solid year, but there’s going to need to be a curve of getting better if that’s going to continue. I do like the way he approaches it. He’s very calm and handles the pressure very well.”