On two separate occasions last Sunday, placekicker Matt Prater had a chance to be the hero for the Arizona Cardinals. With a hard-earned victory hanging in the balance, the pressure was on for the veteran placekicker. Do something Prater had already done a whopping 401 times in the NFL, and the underdog Cards would go home a winner against the division-rival Seattle Seahawks.
As we all know, Prater failed to come through for his Arizona teammates. The 17-year professional missed not one, but two field-goal attempts during the game's final three minutes. Make either one and Prater would've handed Cardinals head coach Jonathan Gannon his first win versus an NFC West opponent.
It was an extremely disappointing ending to a fantastic campaign for Prater. Before that pair of misses, the 5 foot 10, 201 pounder had converted 28 of his 31 FG tries. Prater's performance in 2023 was flat-out phenomenal, especially for an individual who turned 39 years of age just a month before the start of the season.
The Arizona Cardinals need to realize that Matt Prater's best days may soon be behind him
What was particularly impressive about Prater was his incredibly strong leg that remained as powerful as ever. Back in Week 3, the Ohio native was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week after he banged home an improbable 62-yard field-goal attempt against the Dallas Cowboys. It was a sign of what was to come, as Prater made good on 9 of his 12 FG tries from 50 yards or over for the Redbirds.
Unfortunately, all great things must eventually come to an end. Prater will be 40 years old when the 2024 NFL campaign gets underway next September. Can the Cards organization continue to put it's trust in a player who's definitely entering the twilight of his career?
According to Spotrac.com, Prater is scheduled to count $4.75 million against Arizona's salary cap, and the front office would gain $3.5 million in available funds by cutting him. Such a drastic measure probably wouldn't have been a consideration a week ago, but the Seattle debacle may have given the Cardinals franchise something to think about. Prater will go down as one of the previous regime's best free-agent signings, but it may be time for the club to go in another direction.
(Statistics provided by Pro Football Reference)