On a long enough timeline, the survival rate drops to zero. One of the commenters on the previous article asked for an encore. At the same time, they made a key point which was absolutely right. Judging our kicker on the basis of one season could be unfair. He has been kicking since 2017 and he had his best season in 2018. So, maybe he wasn’t good enough in 2021, but he might be good enough in the aggregate.
So, we are simply going to look at more data and those kickers that have been kicking since 2018. The hope here is that we will see two things. First, we will see more kicks total and so we will begin to see an industry standard for performance across the board. Secondly, we will see where Ka’imi Fairbairn is within that standard.
For the record, 22 kickers have been kicking regularly since 2018. Generally speaking, teams don’t continue to employ players that continuously perform considerably worse than the industry baseline. That’s true in any sport. If a shortstop commits 40 errors then he doesn’t continue to be a shortstop long. If a kicker misses a bunch of kicks then he doesn’t make it very long.
A long look at Fairbairn
So, we are splitting kicking into four different statistics. We will look at extra points, field goals up to 39 yards, fielding goals between 40 and 49 yards, and field goals of 50 yards or more. So, we will look at Fairbairn’s percentages in those particular categories and his rank amongst the 22 kickers.
Extra Points: 90.9% (21st)
Field Goals 20-39: 95.9% (5th)
Field Goals 40-49: 75.0% (15th)
Field Goals 50+: 64.3% (9th)
Of course, this is where we begin to talk about value. Rankings and percentages are meaningful, but reality is also meaningful. Fairbairn has 177 attempts on extra points since 2017. He was successful nine additional times he would have been successful 96 percent of the time. That would have put him around the mean and median. Nine points since 2017 amounts to not quite two points a season. Hell, he makes the additional 16 points and has a perfect 100 percent then he would have scored an additional three points a season. We might be talking about one or two extra wins tops.
The rest of the numbers put Fairbairn squarely within the range of average amongst those 22 kickers. So, when we look at the two key questions as it pertains to Fairbairn we see that we can actually support him on the first question. When we remove the issue of pay, he deserves to keep his job. He is fairly close to being a median kicker in the league. Of course, that brings up the important second question.
Overall Kicking Statistics
When you are looking at value you are looking at something very specific. What is the appreciable difference between the best and the worst kickers? So, for each of our four numbers we will look at the highest percentage, lowest percentage, the mean, and the median.
Extra Points: 99.0 (Justin Tucker), 90.2 (Jason Myers), 96.1 (Mean), 95.7 (Median)
20-39 Yards: 98.3 (Justin Tucker), 84.6 (Daniel Carlson), 93.2 (Mean), 94.4 (Median)
40-49 Yards: 90.1 (Justin Tucker), 70.7 (Zane Gonzalez), 80.4 (Mean), 77.8 (Median)
50+ Yards: 92.9 (Younghoe Koo), 30.0 (Michael Badgley), 62.6 (Mean), 61.7 (Median)
So, if we look at Fairbairn specifically, we see he is below the mean and median in extra points and field goals of 40 to 49 yards. He is above the median and mean in the other two categories. I’m pretty confident in calling him pretty close to the mean and median overall. He is the 10th highest paid kicker in the business and that seems fairly close to where he ranks overall.
Justin Tucker is easily the best in the business. He is also the highest paid kicker in the business. In one respect that makes perfect sense. However, that’s not really the point of the second question. The second question is more along the lines of a philosophical question. What’s the value of a good kicker?
Tucker is three percent better than the mean on extra points, five percent on short field goals, and ten percent on field goals between 40 and 49 yards. So, how many points is that really worth in a season? Is it worth ten points? 15 points? His average salary is five million dollars. If you could sign a good street free agent for one million dollars and get median performance then you are paying four million dollars for those ten or 15 points.
The Fairbairn contract is even more glaring. You are paying over three million more than you would for a good street free agent to get median performance. That three million could a long way in strengthening another position. Maybe you afford another linebacker that could be better than what you have. Maybe you afford another safety where you can cut Eric Murray.
Fairbairn’s contract would net them 2.8 million in net savings if they were to cut him. It would cost them 1.5 million in dead money according to overthecap.com. That dead money goes down to 750,000 if they cut him after the 2022 season. They would save 3.65 million. I would expect that to be the result. Kickers get recycled all the time and I’m sure there will be guys they can add that will be somewhere around the median.