The Green Bay Packers have a lot of uncertainty heading into the new NFL league year. The biggest question surrounds the future of quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Jordan Love. But GM Brian Gutekunst made one thing clear: the team wants veteran kicker Mason Crosby back next season.
Crosby enjoyed a bounce back season last year after struggling through 2021. Many of the problems that year had to do with issues with his long snapper, holder and blockers. Crosby also underwent a procedure to clean up his knee during the offseason that caused him to miss the preseason and most of training camp.
In 2021, Crosby had his worst season since 2012, missing nine field goal attempts and two extra points. He bounced back in 2022, making 25-of-29 kicks and being much more consistent throughout the season. The fact that the Packers had a new special teams coordinator in Rich Bisaccia, brought in a new holder in Pat O’Donnell and a new long snapper in Jack Coco all helped with that improvement.
Crosby has been with the Packers longer than any player besides Aaron Rodgers. He has been the team’s kicker since 2007 and is the Packers all-time leading scorer with 1,918 points. One more solid season and he would become the first player in franchise history to top the 2,000 point mark.
In his pre-combine press conference, Gutekunst indicated he wanted to bring Crosby back even though the team could probably save some valuable cap space if they went with a younger kicker.
“To be able to kick in Lambeau Field in clutch situations, I mean any new kicker, that’s going to be tough for those guys. That takes time and Mason has that. He has that experience.”
Crosby has been a clutch kicker throughout his time in Green Bay. Last season, he booted the overtime game-winning field goal against the Cowboys. He has a history of coming up big in late-game situations even in the playoffs.
The former Colorado star also has a lot of experience kicking in Lambeau Field in the late fall and winter when the ball is cold and hard and the winds can be very tricky.
One area of concern for the Packers with Crosby last season was his failure to get enough distance on his kickoffs. He finished last in the NFL last season among qualified kickers in touchback percentage.
According to Gutekunst, there was a reason for the reduction in the distance on Crosby’s kickoffs.
“He went through a pretty significant little injury right before the season started,” Gutekunst said. “I don’t know if he was ever really able to completely catch up because of what we were asking him to do. He had to go out there and kick for us right away. So, I think it’s a credit to him.”
Crosby had his knee “cleaned up” during the offseason and missed all of training camp and the preseason as a result. The Packers carried a kicker on the practice squad all season in case the injury got aggravated. When Crosby was struggling with kickoffs in midseason, the Packers elevated Ramiz Ahmed from the practice squad for one game to have him kick off but he suffered an injury and could not finish the game. Crosby resumed kickoff duties for the rest of the season.
Crosby will turn 39 in September just before the start of the 2023 NFL season. Gutekunst seems confident that his leg strength will improve next season despite his age since he’ll be one more year removed from the procedure he had last offseason.
“I think you’ll see a stronger leg and a different power in his leg on kickoffs this coming year just because he won’t be coming off that surgery,” Gutekunst added.
The Packers still need to work out a new contract with their veteran kicker but it seems regardless of whether Rodgers is back under center next season, Gutekunst wants to bring back Crosby for at least one more year.
That means that the Packers will have at least one if not two players from their last Super Bowl winning team on their roster next season and that for the first time in franchise history, the team could have a player with 2,000 points in a Packers uniform for their career.
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