One of the most consistent things for the Cincinnati Bengals over the past decade has been punter Kevin Huber. He has been with the team since being drafted by the Bengals in 2009, but his position on the roster seems to be in doubt as special teams coordinator admitted at the NFL Combine that Cincinnati needs more from the punting position.
“[Possibly replacing Huber as the punter and holder is] going to be an important deal for us,” Simmons told Jay Morrison from the Athletic. “I certainly don’t want to mess up the operation we’ve got going right now because it’s super important. You’ve got to score points to win games. But yet, when we need to flip the field position, we’ve got to be able to hit the ball out of the back of our end zone and not let their offense start inside the 50. I think (Huber) would be the first one to tell you that he did not punt this year as he has in the past, especially down the stretch.”
The Bengals may have an obvious replacement in mind as well. Former Ohio State punter and fellow Cincinnati native Drue Chrisman has been a familiar face on the transaction line after being cut and signed to the practice squad several times this season. He will have to not only out punt Huber but out hold him as well.
Some fans may roll their eyes at the concept of the process of snapping, catching, holding and then kicking the ball as a deciding factor. However, we all should remember the struggles of making a field goal when a snapper can’t consistently get the ball to the holder from the Carson Palmer era.
Those field goals are important. Cincinnati went from struggling to win one score games to finding ways to pull them out. Having a kicker who can make 50-yard field goals certainly gives you an edge in those contests. If the snap or hold gets messed up though, it becomes a momentum shifting play for the other side.
The team can certainly upgrade over Huber. His 46.4 yard average per kick was 18th in the NFL. It will be interesting if Chrisman can push for his job. Many have noted that the undrafted player has quite the leg. He also broke his hand this offseason, which kept him from working on holding snaps. If that injury doesn’t happen who knows if the change doesn’t happen this season.
The question remains whether the team will even bring Huber back. He currently is set to be a free agent, but Simmons notes he expects him back. Free agency can be unpredictable, though. It also isn’t certain that we don’t see them go out and add more competition. Whether that be a veteran, late draft pick or another undrafted free agent. Simmons does sound like someone who really doesn’t expect to make a splashy move like drafting a punter in the mid-rounds like they did when they drafted Evan McPherson. He seems content to either go with the upside of Chrisman or security of Huber.
The idea that the longest tenured Bengal and one who has the most games played for the team could be moving on prior to the 2022 season is certainly worth watching.