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While the majority of the Bengals' focus in free agency will likely be on players like Andre Smith and Michael Johnson, they also need to focus a lot of attention in locking in their free agent punter for the long haul.
The offseason is officially upon us which means it's time for the Bengals to start contract negotiations with some of their top free agent priorities. For Cincinnati, those players include Andre Smith, Michael Johnson, Thomas Howard, Adam Jones and Terence Newman, as well as working on extensions for players like Geno Atkins. While it's important to bring all these players back into the fold for the 2013 season, another priority player for the Bengals to lock up for a long time is punter Kevin Huber.
Huber is coming off his best statistical season of his career through his first four years in the league. In 2012, Huber punted 76 times for a total of 3,540 yards, which comes out to an average of 46.6 yards per punt, his highest average over his career. Out of his 76 punts this season, only seven were touchbacks while 33 were downed within the 20-yard line. Furthermore, 14 of those punts were fair caught and only 27 were returned, but those 27 were returned only for 210 yards. According to Pro Football Focus, Huber finished the season with an overall grade of 21.2, which was good for 11th in the league.
Punters are often overlooked, but they're some of the most important players on any NFL team. Field position is so incredibly important in the NFL that it can be the deciding factor between winning and losing games. A good punter has the ability to bail an offense out after a bad series as well as put an opposing offense in a bad situation by pinning them deep in their own territory. Huber is one of the few punters in the NFL that seems to help the Bengals win the field-position game more often than he loses it. Re-signing him is a must.
What will likely help the Bengals is the fact that Huber is a Cincinnati native. He went to McNicholas High School in Cincinnati and then punted for the University of Cincinnati before he was selected in the fifth round of the 2009 NFL Draft by the Bengals. The fact that he was likely raised a Bengals fans, should make it fairly easy for the Bengals to lock him up in another contract.
Even though guys like Johnson, Smith and Howard will get more publicity and larger pay checks, their jobs are no more important than Huber's when it comes to winning football games. The Bengals finally have a solid defense, and with a punter like Huber that can pin defenses deep in their own territories, the team could consistently have good field position on offense. Hopefully the Bengals get something on paper with him soon.