The Cincinnati Bengals have done a great job of keeping their special teams unit intact for much of Marvin Lewis’ tenure, and they’ve done so while getting great value from their players.
2017 will be no different, as according to Spotrac, the Bengals are committing just $5,944,300 to the team’s kickers, punter and long snapper. That accounts for a mere 3.80 percent of the team’s overall cap space. They’ve consistently paid very little to their special teams players while keeping many of the same faces in the fold.
We’ve rarely seen a change at kicker, long-snapper or punter in Cincinnati, though it did come last year when Mike Nugent’s seven-year Bengals career came to a painful end. Nugent was getting paid like a quality kicker before he melted down to the point Cincinnati was forced to cut him.
That led to the signing of veteran Randy Bullock, who failed to secure the job when he missed a game-winning field goal against the Houston Texans in Week 16. The Bengals still re-signed Bullock this offseason, but it was the kind of contract that gives him virtually no roster security.
The deal includes a $775,000 salary for 2017 and $790,000 for 2018. Even if Bullock wins the job and keeps it for all of 2017, he can still be cut in 2018 with no penalty. This is a great deal for the Bengals since they have all of the control and no real risk in keeping the veteran.
Bullock’s slim chances of keeping his job got even slimmer once Jake Elliott was drafted in Round 5 of the 2017 NFL Draft. The Bengals rarely cut any of their draft picks, especially in Rounds 5 of higher.
Not since Tanner Hawkinson in the 2013 draft have the Bengals waived a fifth-round pick during final roster cuts. Hawkinson was a disaster who couldn’t make it in the NFL, so unless Elliott is in that boat, it’s unlikely he’s waived. Assuming Elliott makes the final roster, he’ll make just $534,300 in 2017 and have a dead cap hit of $277,201 if he’s waived.
At punter, Kevin Huber is entering the final year of the five-year, $14,000,000 deal he signed with the Bengals in 2013. He’s become one of the NFL’s better punters, and with no competition on the roster, Huber’s job is secure. He’s set to make $3,170,000 in 2017 and have a dead cap hit of $320,000 if released.
The man snapping the ball to both Huber and Elliott is Clark Harris. The long-time snapper has been with the Bengals for nearly a decade now after replacing the disaster that was Brad St. Louis in 2009.
Harris is entering the final year of a five-year, $4,950,000 contract, which he signed with the Bengals in 2013. He is set to have a cap hit of $1,000,000 in 2017. If cut, there is no dead cap money.
Below is a contract breakdown of all the Bengals’ specialists, courtesy of Over The Cap. It includes Jon Brown, who was cut by the Bengals this week, but as he was set to make such little money, it hardly impacts the position. Additionally, Brown had no guaranteed money attached to his deal, so the Bengals aren’t on-the-hook for anything there.