It’s not often that a kicker becomes an unrestricted free agent and actually causes a dilemma for a team. Normally teams will just move on to whoever the next free agent kicker that becomes available and affordable. But when that kicker is Rob Bironas, and the team is the Tennessee Titans, it’s a little different. The Titans have to decide how to handle their 8-year veteran kicker’s contract, and soon.
Bironas, who went undrafted out of Georgia Southern in 2001, lumbered around the NFL as a practice squad kicker and in the Arena Football League for several years before making his debut with the Titans in 2005. Since then, he’s become a model of consistency and efficiency in a franchise that hasn’t been known for being either of those things in that last 10 years.
2012 was an off year for Bironas comparatively speaking, especially from 40+ yards where he made only six of twelve field goal attempts. But Bironas still manged to score over 100 points for the sixth straight season, and was perfect on extra point attempts, (during his eight NFL seasons, he’s only ever missed two extra points).
The question for the Titans isn’t whether or not they want to keep Bironas around, but how they will decide to do it. They could franchise him for the kicker’s price of around $3 million–relatively cheap for a good place kicker. But if the Titans use their franchise tag on Bironas, they will lose the option of using it on another unrestricted free agent, tight end Jared Cook, who is arguably the most important free agent the Titans have to negotiate with this year.
More than likely, Tennessee will have to negotiate a long-term deal with Bironas to keep him, which will up the price somewhat from the $3 million they would spend on the franchise tag for him. Cook is unlikely to sign a long-term deal at this point, and franchising the tight end will cost the Titans around $5.9 million–meaning they’ll be spending more on both players to keep them both.
Both players will become unrestricted free agents on March 12 if the Titans don’t have them under contract, and right now they aren’t close to a deal with either player.
Having stability in the kicking game can’t be undersold for a team like the Titans, who are trying to rebuild and re-establish themselves as an AFC power. Negotiating a contract with Bironas has to be one of the top priorities for Tennessee this off-season, and the team would be making a huge mistake to let him test the free agent market.