2016 was a bad season for the Cincinnati Bengals in many ways. The issues in the kicking game with long-time kicker Mike Nugent making only 79.3 percent of both his extra point and field goal attempts led to an unfortunate situation where the Bengals were forced to release him. He had been a reliable kicker with the Bengals for years, but his confidence was shot after a troubling trend of notable misses. Ultimately, the Bengals released him after 13 games and signed five-year veteran Randy Bullock, who spent his first four years with the Houston Texans but bounced around between the Giants and Steelers in 2016 before suiting up for the Bengals.
That said, Bullock was with the Bengals for only three games and now becomes a free agent in March. So, did Bullock do enough in 2016 to warrant a return to Cincinnati in 2017?
48 games played in 4 season: 83/102 field goals made (81.4%); 97/101 (96%) extra points made
2016 season stats
1 game played with Giants: 2/3 extra points made
1 game played with Steelers: 1/1 extra points made, 3/3 field goals made
3 games played with Bengals: 6/6 extra points made, 5/6 field goals made
Case against re-signing Bullock
When given a chance to win the game for the Bengals in Week 16 in Houston, Bullock missed a 43-yard field goal attempt. It was a horrible feeling for the Bengals and their fans in watching Bullock miss after Nugent contributed heavily to lost games earlier in the year. Sure, Bullock made all of his other attempts with the Bengals and only missed one other opportunity all season (an extra point with the Giants). But, he wasn’t really tested in a particularly ‘clutch’ situation up until he had the opportunity to give the Bengals a 13-12 victory over the team that drafted team. Ultimately, the final result of the game meant nothing to the Bengals who were already out of the playoff race. But, it would have boosted the chances that he has a future with the team, if he had made it. Everyone wants a ‘clutch’ kicker. Unfortunately, after that miss, there is no reason to believe that Bullock is one.
There are many other kickers available for the Bengals to evaluate and sign this offseason. They can’t keep having this kind of bad luck with kickers, right? The Bengals made a mistake by keeping Nugent through the entire important part of the 2016 season, despite the fact that he was a liability to the team’s chances to win games. They don’t want to make the same mistake with Bullock.
Argument for re-signing Bullock
Everyone makes mistakes. Bullock is still an improvement over what Mike Nugent was doing for the Bengals in 2016. Only once has Bullock had a field goal percentage below 82 percent - his second season with the Texans (technically his first given that he spent his rookie season on injured reserve). Since then, he has been a reliable kicker who has missed four of his 101 extra point opportunities and 19 of his 102 field goal opportunities.
He might not be perfect, but he is a fine place holder for the position until the Bengals find someone they know can be their long-term solution at the position. Therefore, there is no question that the Bengals should re-sign Bullock in 2017. He is already somewhat familiar with the coaching staff, only missed one of his 12 kicking opportunities with the Bengals, and he helps bring stability to a position that could easily become unstable if the Bengals were to move on after only three games.
Worst case scenario, the Bengals hold a kicking competition in training camp and the preseason that he loses. But, it shouldn’t cost a whole lot to re-sign him, especially considering he spent most of 2016 without a team and was only particularly sought after by teams in emergency situations. Even then, he didn’t particularly impress at any one stop.
As much as the Bengals’ wouldn’t want a kicking competition to not feature some sort of ‘incumbent’, they also certainly do not want to get into a bidding war for a kicker who let them down in the one game-winning opportunity he had. Given his current standing with the team and the options available in free agency and the draft at the position, resigning him for the sake of a competition should only be considered if the Bengals can afford the luxury.
Priority to re-sign: Low