The Oakland Raiders Must Release Sebastian Janikowski in 2017

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Last Word On Pro Football, Ryan Smith

As tough as it must be for fans of the Oakland Raiders to admit, Sebastian Janikowski is not the kicker he used to be. The Raiders took Janikowski, best known as Seabass, with the 17th pick in the first round of the 2001 NFL Draft, and he’s been a rare source of consistency on the team. However, as the Raiders move forward, the Pro Bowl kicker needs to be left behind.

The Oakland Raiders Must Release Sebastian Janikowski in 2017

Inconsistency

Frankly speaking, Sebastian Janikowski just isn’t the kicker he used to be. The “Polish Cannon” has missed five of his eight field goal attempts of at least 50 yards, tying the entire 2007 season. In fact, Janikowski’s six misses are the most in the entire league. Only four kickers have a worse field goal percentage than Janikowski, and none of them have attempted anywhere near as many kicks.

Once upon a time, Janikowski was automatic. Only five years ago, he broke an NFL record by successfully making a 63 yard field goal against the Denver Broncos. Unfortunately, those days seem to have passed him by. Whether it’s because he’s 38 years old or for other reasons, Janikowski still isn’t the kicker he used to be.

Then again, Sebastian Janikowski isn’t the only kicker having troubles. In fact, only Justin Tucker of the Baltimore Ravens and the ageless wonder, Adam Vinatieri of the Indianapolis Colts, have been perfect this year. Even typically sure-footed kickers like Blair Walsh of the Minnesota Vikings have struggled in 2016. But there’s a difference between those kickers and Sebastian Janikowski.

Money

Sebastian Janikowski is set to make $8.37 million over the next two seasons. If you average the top ten kicker contracts in the NFL, they make $1,627,400 dollars, and in 2017, Janikowski is set to make more than twice that. That’s absolutely ridiculous.

If Janikowski was still consistently drilling it from 50+ it would be one thing, but he isn’t. As his rate of play has fallen, his rate of pay has grown more excessive. Someone who specializes in making long field goals shouldn’t miss multiple field goals in a game, like he did against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers two weeks ago. It’s true that it was windy in the stadium, but if Vinatieri could make that kick in the snow fifteen years ago, Seabass should be able to handle a stiff breeze.

If the Raiders cut Janikowski after this season, he’ll still carry $360,000 of dead cap, but he’ll also free up $4 million. While that might not seem like a lot in the wacky world of the National Football League, the Raiders are going to need every penny they get over the next couple of seasons.

Future

Where might $4 million come in handy for general manager Reggie McKenzie? How about when he’s attempting to re-sign the stars that have helped revive the Raiders? Quarterback Derek Carr will be a free agent after the 2017 season, and defensive juggernaut Khalil Mack‘s contract expires the year after that. And in 2019, the thrilling Amari Cooper‘s contract will also expire. As three of the best young players in the NFL, all three of these men are going to want big paydays.

McKenzie is a cap-magician, almost single-handedly rescuing the Raiders from the cap hell that the likes of Al Davis and Hue Jackson left him, but the reality is that there is a salary cap. McKenzie will likely attempt to front-load all of the contracts so he’ll be able to get the big paydays out of the way, but every penny counts. Imagine trying to re-sign Peyton Manning, J.J. Watt, and Odell Beckham Jr. over the span of three years. That won’t be cheap.

Reportedly, the Raiders want to re-sign Carr to a “Luck-ish contract” as soon as possible. This likely means the young passer and the Raiders will come to terms on a deal as soon as this spring. Janikowski has been a fan favorite, but he’s never been able to will the Raiders to victory like Carr has this season.

The Last Boot

The sad reality is that the NFL’s all-time leader in kicks of at least fifty yards will likely be a cap casualty after this season. The Raiders are good again, and keeping the likes of Carr, Mack, and Cooper are more vital to their success than a kicker with a big leg. Maybe they can restructure his deal, and maybe they’ll re-sign him to a more reasonable price-tag, but don’t be surprised if Giorgio Tavecchio is the one kicking extra points in Oakland next season.