The Cincinnati Bengals began expressing interest in Concordia-St. Paul kicker Tom Obarski, who holds mostly every record for placekickers at his university and a handful in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (including longest field goal (59 yards)), late during the predraft process. Their interest was significant enough to ink Obarski to a three-year deal (standard for college free agents) following the 2015 NFL draft.
"It is an awesome feeling," said Obarski, who chatted with our own Rebecca Toback last week. "The first time I said I’m a Bengal was awesome. It’s been cool though thinking about it and what the summer is going to entail and the opportunity and it’s really exciting."
Obarski isn't just here as a camp body. He will compete for a spot on the team's 53-man roster, squaring off against incumbent Mike Nugent.
"I don't believe in just bringing in camp legs," Bengals special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons said via TwinCities.com. "If we're going to bring somebody in, we're going to bring somebody in that is competition for a spot. I don't want to waste somebody else's time, and I certainly don't want to waste my own time on developing somebody who's not going to be here anyway."
2014 was a shaky season for Nugent who only converted 78.8 percent of his field goals -- his lowest conversion since his rookie season in 2005. Yet, his only significant miss was the overtime attempt against Carolina that ended with a 37-37 tie. Other misses occurred during wins, blowout losses and a 50-yard attempt in Pittsburgh (where 50-yard attempts are extremely difficult).
Cincinnati still re-signed Nugent earlier this year, securing a two-year deal worth $3.5 million (which can hit $4 million with incentives). However if the Bengals release Nugent and go with Obraski, they'll lose $600,000 in dead money against the cap. They'll also gain cash because Obraski makes the league minimum as a college free agent ($435,000 in 2015, $525,000 in 2016 and $615,000 in 2017).
"I think we both bring some different things to the table," Obarski said. "As a rookie, I hope to go in there and give him some competition and see where that leads. But he’s also been in this position plenty of times before and he’s been able to work through it and prove he’s an amazing kicker. I think going into training camp an the preseason will be a good competition and we’ll see where that leads. But it’ll be a good time."