Arizona Cardinals must add a kicker to the roster to compete with Prater
The Arizona Cardinals signed Matt Prater to replace Zane Gonzalez. Prater, who had a stellar career with many different NFL teams, was the weak link for the Detroit Lions’ special teams in 2020. Sure, he played a pivotal role in beating the Cardinals in Week Three, but the numbers speak for themselves.
Last season, Prater finished 21 of 28 on field goals, good for just a 75-percent conversion rate. He was among the least accurate kickers in 2020, and if that isn’t enough, his old age also shows that he’s not a long-term fixture at the position.
Want more fun? Prater was automatic on kicks within 40 yards, finishing a perfect 11 for 11. However, he was 4 for 7 on kicks between 40 and 49 yards, and just 6 for 10 on kicks beyond 50 yards. If you do the math, Prater finished 10 for 17 on field goals of 40 yards or more, for a meager 58.8 conversion percentage.
Gonzalez posted similar numbers, finishing a perfect 6 for 6 on anything inside of 40 yards. However, he finished just 10 for 16 on kicks 40 yards away or further, for a conversion rate of 62.5, nearly four percentage points better than Prater.
As the title implies, this isn’t an argument that the Cardinals should have retained Gonzalez; he had to go given his inconsistency. However, replacing him with an equally inconsistent kicker in 2020 terms makes zero sense, unless Steve Keim has faith that Prater can return to his pre-2020 self. At his age, it’s quite a risk. Especially when you’re playing in the league’s toughest division.
The Cardinals would do well to take a seventh-round flyer on a kicker, or even scan the Priority Free Agent market after the NFL Draft concludes on Saturday. Given Prater’s numbers at kicker in 2020, all signs point that he’s not the answer unless he rebounds.
Or, the Cardinals can go with a younger, fresher leg. Someone who can convert field goals in a controlled environment, and solve the problem at kicker for the long-term. Or at least increase the odds of doing so.