PFT’s All-Unemployed Team has a new punter.
Released by the Vikings on Monday, Chris Kluwe immediately became the best punter available in free agency.
Kluwe has several factors working in his favor as NFL teams weigh whether to give him a look. For starters, he posted a solid net average of 39.7 yards a season ago. Also, Kluwe can hold on field goals and extra points. Moreover, he’s only 31, which means he could conceivably be a multi-season solution for another club.
All of those are reasons that Kluwe could appeal to teams looking for punter help.
Which brings us to the next topic: who needs a lift at the position?
Two obvious candidates are Cleveland and Oakland, neither of which has a punter who has appeared in a regular-season game. The Browns have veteran Spencer Lanning and undrafted rookie Jake Schum, while the Raiders have the talented-but-inconsistent Marquette King and rookie free agent Bobby Cowan. Kluwe isn’t a perfect fit with either club, given that both seem ready to go young at punter, but he would give either team a proven veteran at the position.
Pittsburgh could be another club in the market for a punter at some point. The Steelers will have Drew Butler and Brian Moorman compete for the job in training camp, but Kluwe had a better net average than both a season ago. On paper, Kluwe could also be an option for the Jets (current punter: Robert Malone) and Panthers (Brad Nortman) should either team look for competition for the incumbent.
In short, Kluwe’s skill and experience likely puts him at or near the top of the list of punters teams will consider should they need assistance.
However, he’s not in an enviable position.
First, the majority of clubs are set at punter. Second, his minimum salary as a ninth-year player is $840,000. To teams wanting to go younger and cheaper at the position, Kluwe won’t have as much appeal. Third, there are more skilled punters than jobs, and the competition for positions will only get worse during the summer as teams start to pare down their rosters. Teams like New England (Zoltan Mesko, Ryan Allen), Pittsburgh (Butler, Moorman), Philadelphia (Donnie Jones, Brad Wing) and Tampa Bay (Michael Koenen, Chas Henry) may have multiple punters capable of kicking in the league.
Then there’s the matter of Kluwe’s outspokenness. PFT’s Mike Florio put it well earlier Monday when he said that Kluwe “needs a team that won’t be troubled by his non-football interests.”
Chris Kluwe has an uncommon willingness to speak his mind about a variety of issues. I don’t know if that will be a problem for him with teams around the league; I would hope not.
However, he does have a common problem facing him now: actively looking for a job is no guarantee of one in a fiercely competitive field.