Brandon Fields learns that specialists aren’t treated all that special in NFL

 

Sebastian Janikowski is entering his 16th season as place-kicker for the Oakland Raiders, providing some late cut news didn’t slip by me, and he’s working on a huge contract extension from 2013 that includes $8 million in guaranteed money.

This makes him the exception to every NFL rule, which is what you would expect from the late Al Davis’ franchise.

Miami Dolphins punter Brandon Fields (2) at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida on September 7, 2014. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Former Miami Dolphins punter Brandon Fields (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Imagine, there are 22 active kickers with career field-goal percentages higher than 80.1. Included on that list are Dan Carpenter, who was cut by Miami in the middle of 2013 training camp and came back a few months later to beat the Dolphins with a last-minute kick for his new team, the Buffalo Bills.

Carpenter was older and more expensive than the kid who took his place in Miami, Caleb Sturgis, but he was nowhere near as old or rich as Janikowski. The decision to cut Carpenter loose was the same as any other to lop a kicker or a punter. There’s plenty more where that came from.

I’m here to say that the Raiders aren’t as crazy as everybody thinks in prizing a proven specialist like Janikowski, the former Florida State star.

The release of Dolphins punter Brandon Fields Tuesday makes the point all over again.

He’s the guy that everybody wants. The fourth-best punter in NFL history statistically with a career average of 46.8 yards per kick. Owner of the top four seasons in Dolphin history, with the highlight a 50.2-yard average in 2012. Six punts downed inside the 20-yard line one game alone a couple of years ago. Oh, and Fields is terrific in the community, too, winning or sharing the team’s Nat Moore Award three consecutive seasons. For the franchise that brought us Bullygate, that ought to count for something.

Still, Fields was deemed expendable because he’s just a guy who kicks the ball, not one who throws it or catches it or chases it down. When someone like him starts costing a little money, the Dolphins go with someone who costs a little less.

[Heat training camp is coming soon and it sure doesn’t feel like 37-45 anymore]

[No-hitters happening at a pace to rival 1884, when the ball wasn’t even all that round]

[Jack’s 18 majors may not be the only all-time record Tiger has trouble reaching now]

If there was any favor done here, it was in releasing Fields before the final cut. That allows him to network with other teams and catch on somewhere else. There may be a tryout or two but what’s the point? We’re talking about an elite punter. He’ll be snapped up quick in a transaction that takes the job of another worthy specialist.

Meanwhile, the Dolphins will go on like they don’t even miss him, until somebody blocks a punt (that only happened three times to Fields in 594 kicks) or somebody mishandles the hold on a field-goal attempt (oh, yeah, Fields handled that job, too).

Maybe giving a veteran like Janikowski the royal treatment doesn’t make perfect sense, but it makes more to me than giving a pro like Fields the boot.

HERE ARE THE NFL’S ALL-TIME CAREER GROSS PUNTING AVG. LEADERS

Name                          Yrs.                 Punts                     Avg.

Shane Lechler          2000-14             1,185                     47.5

Bryan Anger            2012-14               280                     47.0

Thomas Morstead  2009-14              354                     47.0

Brandon Fields       2007-14               594                     46.8