This offseason, the Bengals decided to use their franchise tag designation on kicker, Mike Nugent, marking the second time that they've used the tag on the position in the last four years. It was a bit surprising, though there wasn't a clear "franchise" type of free agent that the Bengals faced losing. After injuring his knee late in the 2010 season, Nugent went on to have a stellar 2011 putting up Pro Bowl-type of numbers.
Since receiving the tag, Nugent has made it clear to the club that he wants a new contract beyond the one-year type that comes with being tagged. According to The Cincinnati Enquirer's Joe Reedy, things are still quiet on the Nugent front.
We're not anticipating a holdout here, as Nugent was at the recent mandatory OTAs with the rest of the club. After kicking at 87% in 2011 and accounting for a career-best 132 points, it's clear that Nugent has a good argument for wanting a new contract. He was a big question mark going into 2011 (as were many other positions), but rebounded well and exceeded expectations.
We also see the Bengals' side of things here as well. First, the team has been burned by giving out lucrative contracts to kickers before. Shayne Graham had a handful of good seasons with the club, but a lack of clutch kicks after the team signed him as their franchise player. Secondly, Nugent has shown a penchant for following up a solid season with an injury-filled and/or ineffective one. While we don't see him falling off a cliff, in terms of performance, the caution that the team is displaying is understandable.
The team also wants Nugent to show more consistency towards the end of the season. It appeared that both fatigue and worsening weather contributed to a handful of Nugent's missed kicks towards the end of the year. While the team had to be pleased with his overall performance in 2011, it is troubling when any player struggles down the stretch when points are at a premium--particularly a kicker.