As NFL free agency inches closer, the less-heralded kicker position is one that cannot be overlooked.
The Cincinnati Bengals could be on the verge of losing Mike Nugent if he's not re-signed, but there are several replacements hitting the market. While kicker isn't the most important position, having a good one is key for teams hoping to make a deep playoff run.
Nine of the top 15 kickers via ESPN this past season kicked for playoff teams, and the Super Bowl-champion Patriots' roster featured the No. 1 kicker in Stephen Gostkowski. He was ranked No. 1 both by ESPN and Pro Football Focus, who tabbed him the top free-agent kicker available:
1. Stephen Gostkowski
2014 Grade: +3.9
2014 Snaps: 195
Coming off a very impressive season, he was good on 94.6% of his field goal attempts, missing just two all year. That put him second amongst all kickers behind Adam Vinatieri last year and will make him an attractive signing to any team needing a kicker. Consider too that he has shown himself capable of kicking in the harsh conditions of Gillette Stadium in January and it's easy to see why he'll be atop some teams' wishlists.
After Gostkowski, Ryan Succop who spent time with the Chiefs and Titans in 2014, is the next best available guy. After being cut by the Chiefs in 2014, Succop caught on with Tennessee before converting 19-of-22 field-goal attempts in addition to all 27 extra points.
2. Ryan Succop
2014 Grade: +3.6
2014 Snaps: 114
Good on 86.4% of his kicks in 2014, tied for 13th in the league, it was the best season of his career in that regard. Much of his career has floated around the 80% mark, but teams will be encouraged by what they saw from him in Tennessee this year.
For teams looking for a new punter, it's a thin market with Tennessee's Brett Kern being the only positive-graded player via PFF.
3. Brett Kern
2014 Grade: +17.4
2014 Snaps: 96
Our ninth-highest graded punter in 2014, Kern is by far the best punter available this year at a position where there are fewer solid performers than you'd expect. Averaging 46.8 yards per punt, Kern dropped 30 of his 72 punts inside the opponents 20-yard line, the ninth-most in the league last season.