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Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff acquitted himself well last year in 12 games donning the purple and black, but that doesn't mean he is guaranteed Baltimore's job in 2010.
Head coach John Harbaugh has made no secret about his desire to bring in another kicker to compete with Cundiff throughout the offseason. That challenger could eventually come in the form of a draft pick, but at this point, there are several veteran free agents available.
Cundiff, a restricted free agent, connected on 15 of 20 field goal attempts and all 22 extra points for the Ravens after an abbreviated stint with the Cleveland Browns in the beginning of the year. Several of the misses were a result of poor snaps from long snapper Matt Katula, who dealt with tendinitis in his elbow as the season waned.
But, Cundiff helped solidify the kicking game after the Ravens jettisoned Steve Hauschka in Week 10 following several key shanks. Hauschka originally won the job when he beat out Graham Gano in training camp, a battle that began with the Ravens' declining to re-sign veteran Matt Stover.
Now, the Ravens are looking to further improve at the position and create a similar competition, this time with Cundiff remaining in the mix.
Published reports have said that Harbaugh, Ravens owner Steve Bisciottiand general manager Ozzie Newsome met with former Cincinnati Bengals kicker Shayne Graham for more than an hour last week at the NFL owners meetings in Orlando, Fla.
In addition, other reports noted that the Ravens contacted former Arizona Cardinals kicker Neil Rackers. In addition, former New York Jets kicker Jay Feely is an unrestricted free agent.
All three were released after missing key field goal attempts in the playoffs.
But with that in mind, here is a look at the top (and only) free-agent kickers on the market:
*NOTE: Under the rules of this year's collective bargaining agreement, the Ravens allowed to sign just one unrestricted free agent to a salary of $5.5 (estimated) million or higher. They also can sign any unrestricted free agents for less than $3.7 (estimated) million in a one-year contract with the following years limited to a 30 percent increase. Besides that, the Ravens are not allowed to sign an unrestricted free agent unless one of theirs signs with another team. And the first year salary of the unrestricted free agent signed cannot exceed the first year salary of the player lost.
*Shayne Graham, Cincinnati BengalsUnrestricted; 6-0, 205; 10-year veteran
2009 Stats: 23-of-28 FGs (82.1 percent), 28-of-29 PAT
Graham has hit on 80 percent of his field goals in each of the last seven years and is the fourth-most accurate kicker in NFL history. Graham has tormented the Ravens in the past, too, nailing seven field goals in Baltimore in 2007. The Bengals did give the franchise tag to Graham last year, but he was off on two field goals in the playoffs against the New York Jets, a huge reason for Cincinnati's 24-21 loss at home. He's played in the division before, but his reported 2009 salary ($2.4 million) could make him expensive.
Upside – Ravens are familiar with his talent, Downside – Pressure performance
Neil Rackers, Arizona CardinalsUnrestricted; 6-1, 206; 11-year veteran
2009 Stats: 16-of-17 FGs (94.1 percent), 37-of-38 PAT
Rackers is known for his leg strength, with at least 14 touchbacks on kickoffs every year since 2004, when he became Arizona's regular kicker. And, Rackers' completion percentage only rose throughout his career. But, a key miss against the Green Bay Packers in the playoffs was damning. Rackers did miss two games with a groin injury late in the year, which couldn't have helped matters. If he can show he's healthy, Rackers could be a good value.
Upside – Power, Downside – Injury questions
Jay Feely, New York JetsUnrestricted; 5-10, 205; 10-year veteran
2009 Stats: 30-of-36 FGs (83.3 percent), 32-of-32 PAT
Feely has connected on his last four 50-yard attempts in the regular season, but missed two kicks in the AFC Championship against the Indianapolis Colts, making him another playoff casualty. Feely has been steady throughout the years, though, hitting at least 83.3 percent of his attempts in each of the five seasons. Feely is reliable and can nail touchbacks almost as well as Rackers.
Upside – Versatility, Downside – Misses from 40 yards in