Kevin Huber, the punter with the third-most games in Cincinnati Bengals franchise history, is slated to win the job again for the ninth-consecutive season. It’s pretty easy to do that when you have zero competition for your job, as is the case with Huber. The Cincinnati native, and former Bearcat, hasn’t been the same since his fantastic 2014 campaign, but he is looking forward to bouncing back to that Pro Bowl level this year.
Weight: 211 pounds
Hometown: Cincinnati, Ohio
Experience: Ninth-year player
Draft status: 5th-round pick, 142 overall, in 2009
Huber, who turns 32 in two weeks, is in the last season of the five-year deal that he agreed to back in 2013, and will earn a base salary of $2,800,000 and a workout bonus of $50,000, while carrying a cap hit of $3,170,000 and a dead cap value of $320,000, according to spotrac. It’s possible Huber receives a contract extension before the beginning of the season, otherwise, he’ll be playing on the final year of his contract.
Huber is the club’s all-time leader in average for gross punting and net punting, more than a yard ahead of each of his closest pursuers, as well as the all-time leader in punts inside-the-20. He also owns the Bengals’ top five average net seasons. This season, he’ll be trying to recapture the form that made him a Pro Bowler and First-team All-Pro in in 2014. Huber was fundamental for a squad that struggled with injuries all year and made it to the playoffs only in the strength of some wild wins in the second half of the season. The long-time Bengals punter was the unsung hero in some of those games, finishing with a net average of 42.1 yards per attempt, the best mark of his career.
Huber has taken a few steps back ever since, but he’s still the unchallenged holder of the job for good sake. He acknowledged the fact that he hasn’t played up to his standards the past two years, but appears to be ready to make up for it.
“Everything I didn’t like about last season. I feel like I’m on the right path to get to where I was kicking a couple of years ago,” Huber said. “I think I can get back there and make a couple of Pro Bowls before I’m done.”
It’s easy to diminish the importance of a punter, as they almost never make a highlight play, but Huber showed in 2014 how crucial he can be for this team when playing well, often putting the struggling Bengals defense of that year in outstanding field position. Never known for the strength of his leg, Huber helped his teammates by not allow a single return of more than 11 yards that season, while also recording 27 punts inside the 20-yard line.
There is no battle for this job. Huber is under contract for a few million dollars and there’s no other punter on the roster, quite the opposite from the kicking unit, where there’s three guys fighting for the one starting role. He only missed two games at the end of the 2013 and it was only because of a brutal and illegal hit by a Pittsburgh Steelers player that broke his jaw and produced him a vertebral fracture in his neck.
Even if he’s never able to perform at a Pro-Bowl level again, considering the way the Bengals usually stick with their veterans, Huber could get a new contract sometime soon, which would allow him to keep climbing the franchise records ladder.
Roster odds: 99.99 percent.