Ravens cut Cundiff as Tucker wins kicking job

Undrafted rookie out-performed incumbent in training camp

August 26, 2012|By Jeff Zrebiec

Billy Cundiff won’t get his chance for redemption, at least not in a Ravens’ uniform.

A little more than seven months after he missed a 32-yard field goal that thwarted the Ravens’ Super Bowl hopes and just three days after he was benched for an undrafted rookie in the third preseason game, Cundiff was waived by the Ravens today, according to multiple sources.

The move, which was extremely unexpected when training camp began but became self evident when Cundiff did not kick at all in the team’s 48-17 victory over the Detroit Lions on Thursday, leaves the Ravens’ kicking job to Justin Tucker, a rookie free agent out of Texas.

Cundiff didn’t lose the job so much as Tucker won it as the rookie hit 96-of-103 field goals (93.2 percent) in training camp practice and converted 5-of-5 in games, including a 53-yarder versus the Lions. Cundiff made 88-of-105 field goals (83.8 percent) and 2-of-2 in preseason games.

As the Ravens prepare to go into the season with an untested rookie at kicker, Cundiff, a 32-year who has played eight seasons in the NFL, will now be looking for another job. As good as he was during the 2010 season, he’ll ultimately be remembered here for his miss in the final seconds of the AFC championship game against the New England Patriots in late January.

With the Ravens trailing 23-20 with 15 seconds remaining at Gillette Stadium, Cundiff sent a field-goal attempt wide left and Patriots celebrated a return to the Super Bowl while the Ravens trudged off the field knowing that their season was over.

The miss ended what was a disappointing season for Cundiff who converted 28-of-37 field goals during the regular season and was just 1-of-6 from 50-plus yards.

Cundiff, who was given a five-year, $15 million contract following a 2010 campaign in which he hit 26-of-29 field goals, was a huge weapon on kickoffs and made the Pro Bowl, said all the right things following the miss. He didn’t blame confusion on the sidelines or any scoreboard glitch. He vowed to put it behind him and dismissed any speculation that his confidence was shaken.

He had a solid training camp, though the competition with Tucker appeared to wear on the veteran as the preseason progressed. Following the Ravens’ second preseason game, Cundiff said that he believed that he was essentially in competition with himself – not Tucker – because he was told that the kicking job was his if he kicked well during training camp.

Then, following Thursday’s game in which he watched Tucker go 2-of-2 on field goals and 6-of-6 on extra points, Cundiff said that he was surprised and disappointed by coach John Harbaugh’s decision not to have him kick.

Harbaugh’s reasoning was that team officials wanted to see if Tucker could handle kicking the whole game, but the writing was clearly on the wall.

“I feel like I’ve been through enough,” Cundiff said after the game. “There’s not a single thing that somebody could throw out at me that I’m not prepared for.”

The Ravens now have to hope Tucker continues to be as consistent and unflappable as he’s been throughout training camp. In four seasons at Texas, Tucker made 40-of-48 kicks while earning a reputation as a clutch and do-it-all performer.

He never missed a pressure kick for us,” said Texas coach Mack Brown in an interview with The Sun earlier this month. “He made them for 50 plus. Plus, we had him kicking off and we had him regular punting and rugby punting. He did everything for us the last couple of years and did it as well as anybody in the country and never griped about being overloaded at all.”

With the decision, the Ravens shed Cundiff’s $2.2 million base salary though $600,000 in dead money will count against the salary cap this year and $1.8 million the next because of the remainder proration of his $3 million bonus.     

The Ravens have until 4 p.m. Monday to get their roster down to 75. They’ll then cut their roster to the required 53 by 9 p.m. Friday.


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