Team Nostalgia was dealt a death knell last week. The reunion of Jon Gruden and Sebastian Janikowski is not going to happen. Turns out, the Oakland Raiders will not be getting the band back together, after all.
“The Raider Nation salutes Sebastian Janikowski as the sun sets on his illustrious career with the Oakland Raiders”, a statement from owner Mark Davis began. “He joined the team as a surprise first-round pick in the 2000 Draft and finishes his time in Oakland as one of the greatest or perhaps the greatest kicker in pro football history. His powerful left leg produced an NFL-record 55 field goals of 50-or-more yards. The motto ‘Once a Raider, Always a Raider’ has never been truer as his 18-year career makes him the longest-tenured player in Raiders history. Sebastian, his wife, Lori, and their three children will always be a loved and treasured part of the Raiders family.”
For 16 seasons, the Raiders knew no other place kicker than the 40 year old affectionately known as Seabass. Longshot journeyman Giorgio Tavecchio assumed the mantle after a back injury erased Janikowski’s 2017 campaign.
If you thought seeing Tavecchio as the kicker was a strange sight, prepare to be truly bewildered. Just wait until you get a glimpse of Janikowski in something other than Silver & Black. His agent said Janikowski is too young to retire. In that case, look for Seabass elsewhere.
Where do the Raiders go from here at kicker? Let us look:
- Tavecchio. The 27-year-old journeyman is an exclusive rights free agent, meaning he is back in the fold. He has no choice, really. ERFA are offered a minimum veteran salary and, if the Raiders offer it to him, it is a take it or leave (the NFL) it deal. He earned $465,000 in a season where he converted 16 of 21 field goals and 33 of 34 PATs. He has the leg power and accuracy to be a Raider fixture.
- Free agency. The pool of kickers is a mix of aging veterans and youngsters looking for long-term stability. A glimpse of who is available:
○ Cody Parkey. The 26-year-old booted through 21 of his 23 attempts and nailed 26 of his 29 PATs. The Auburn product’s leg is accurate but not as powerful as the Raiders have been accustomed to in the past. As a result, he may not fit the need.
○ Cairo Santos. The 26-year-old former Kansas City Chief drilled four out his five field goals with the Chicago Bears last season. The diminutive Santos has decent power and requisite accuracy.
○ Adam Vinatieri. Older than Janikowski at 45, the veteran leg was still effective (29 of 34, 5-for-6 from 50-plus yards) and is not slowing down a bit. However, would the Raiders really let one legend go for another (older) one?
- Draft. There is not a specialist worth a first-round selection, ala Janikowski. Nevertheless, that has not to say there is not talent. A glance at the prospects:
○ Eddy Pineiro. The Florida Gators’ kicker was an accurate 17-of-18 this past season (a long of 50). Projected to go as high as the fourth round, Pineiro drilled a 77-yard field goal in a video that went viral.
○ Daniel Carlson. The Auburn booter finished 21-of-28 this past season and showed plenty of leg hitting from 54 yards out twice. He projects as high as the fourth round.
○ Aidan Schneider. The big Oregon Ducks specialist converted nine of his 12 field goals with a long of 47. Accuracy is the name of his game despite his larger size. The lack of power has him ranked as an undrafted free agent.