The arrival of the talented Andy Lee last season provided a solution for the long-time punting woes of the Arizona Cardinals
The Arizona Cardinals were waiting in the wings like scavengers. Word was circulating that the Carolina Panthers were on the verge of cutting an extremely-skilled punter. It just so happens that the Cardinals were badly in need of an upgrade at that very position.
On September 2nd of last year, three-time Pro Bowler Andy Lee received his walking papers from the Panthers. The Cards’ front office immediately sprung into action. Just two days later, the organization inked the ultra-talented Lee to a two-year contract.
Arizona, quite frankly, had not had a decent punter since 2013. That season, Dave Zastudil had averaged 45.7 yards on 78 punts. Brand new general manager Steve Keim had inherited the capable veteran from the previous regime, and was happy that he had.
Problems arose in October of 2014, however. Zastudil aggravated a lingering groin injury in a matchup with the Denver Broncos, and was placed on the injured-reserve list soon after. The former fourth-round draft pick of the Baltimore Ravens never punted in an NFL contest again.
Zastudil’s replacement would turn out to be one of the worst acquisitions of Keim’s career. The dreadful Drew Butler would somehow last three years in the desert. The son of former Cardinals’ placekicker Kevin Butler averaged a frighteningly mediocre 42.4 yards per punt during his tenure, and had three blocked to boot.
An injury to Butler in 2016 allowed the Cards to audition a couple of new punters. Unfortunately, neither candidate did much better than the man who’s job they had hoped to take. Matt Wile averaged a mere 43.7 yards per punt on 10 boots, while Ryan Quigley managed just a 41.6 average on 34 kicks.
Thanks to the generosity of the Panthers, the dilemma was finally rectified just prior to the start of the 2017 schedule. Lee showed Arizona what a good punter could do. The 2004 sixth-round pick of the San Francisco 49ers averaged a whopping 47.3 yards on 88 punts, and none were blocked.
The Cardinals apparently know a good thing when they see it. This past week, Lee signed his name to a two-year extension, an agreement which will keep the 35-year old around through the 2020 campaign.
It took Keim and his cohorts a few years, but they finally resolved the special teams conundrum. Rest easy, Cards’ fans. Lee will be in town for at least three more years to show us how valuable a gifted punter can be.