The Bengals are in need of a more established kicker to compete for the job in 2017, and they may be in luck.
On Thursday, the Jets released long-time kicker Nick Folk. The move was made to free up cap space as Folk was set to make $3.6 million in 2017, and the Jets will recoup $3 million in cap room as they rank near the bottom of the league in cap space.
Folk, 32, who joined the Jets in 2010, is the second-leading scorer in franchise history with 729 points, behind only Pat Leahy. His 81.8 percent accuracy on field goals is the highest in team history based on a minimum of 100 attempts.
He is also coming off one of his best years statistically, making 87 percent of his field goals (27-for-31), though he missed two extra points, including a costly miss in the regular-season opener against the Bengals, though that was thanks to Margus Hunt blocking the kick.
Needless to say, Folk becomes the best kicker to hit the open market, and he’s also a guy who was just cut. That means if a team like the Bengals sign him, he won’t count against compensatory picks, which the Bengals are bound to have several of with big-name free agents like Kevin Zeitler, Dre Kirkpatrick and Andrew Whitworth set to hit the market.
Signing Folk would also make sense because the Bengals’ current presumed frontrunner for the kicker job, Randy Bullock, does not have a single dollar of guaranteed money on his current two-year deal, meaning the Bengals lose nothing if they cut him before next season.
Jonathan Brown is also on the roster, but he can’t be expected to be an NFL kicker when the former soccer star didn’t even attempt a field goal or extra point in college.
Folk was originally a sixth round draft pick by the Dallas Cowboys back in 2007 and made the Pro Bowl in his rookie year. After a rough 2009 season, the Cowboys waived Folk toward the end of the year and the Jets signed him in 2010. He'd been with New York up until Thursday. Folk has an 81.3 make percentage on field goals in his NFL career including 23 kicks made from 50+ yards, two of which came this year. The Bengals failed to have a kicker score on a 50+ yard attempt in 2016, and next year’s kicker should surely be able to achieve that feat. Folk is also 335/337 on extra points, with both misses in his NFL career coming this past season.
It seems like a perfect fit between the Bengals and Folk, no? That’s not to say there won’t be other suitors for Folk, but you have to think the Bengals will at least be among the teams that show interest in him. The Bengals have made it known they’ll have an open competition at the position in 2017 and even if the team adds a rookie kicker, having another veteran as part of the competition would show the Bengals really want to seek out the best options possible for the kicker role in 2017.