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Cody Parkey Trade: Making sense of the Eagles kicker competition

The Eagles traded for rookie kicker Cody Parkey. So... now what?

Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports

Now that the initial reaction of the Philadelphia Eagles trade for kicker Cody Parkey has cooled down (and boy, was it INTENSE), let's take a look at what this means for the team moving forward.

Alex Henery's struggles

The Eagles are the only team in the entire NFL with three kickers on their roster: Alex Henery, Carey Spear, and Cody Parkey. You know that saying about how if you have two starting quarterbacks, you don't have any? Well I'm guessing the saying for three kickers isn't much more encouraging.

At the top of the pecking order is incumbent starter Alex Henery. Here's a statistical look at Henery's disappointing 2013 campaign.

Field Goal Stats:

Field Goals FGM FGA % LONG 9-19 20-29 30-39 40-49 50+
Stat 23 28 82.1% 51 0-0 8-8 7-8 7-10 1-2
Rank T-22 T-21 22 T-26 N/A T-13 T-18 T-18 T-25

Kickoff Stats:

Kickoffs No. TB TB% Avg. Distance Max. Hang Time Avg. Start % Returned
Stat 90 37 41.1% 64.7 4.4 24 56.7
Rank 8 20 24 31 23 T-16 T-11

Aside from going a perfect 45 for 45 on extra points, it's easy to see that Henery was below average across the board. Henery's struggles continued against the New England Patriots last week when he missed a 47-yard attempt way wide to the right. It's this kind of lackluster performance caused the Eagles to bring in competition for Henery in the offseason.

RIP Murderleg

That competition came in the form of undrafted rookie free agent kicker Carey Spear, who played at Vanderbilt. Spear instantly earned attention for his big hits (see: Muderleg) but it was clear he wasn't much of an impressive kicker. Spear made 35 of 43 81.4%) field goals during his last two years of college. Spear's struggles during Eagles training camp have been well documented. As of last week, I charted Spear's field goal kicking in practice to be around 20/31 (70.97%). Spear did not make a single appearance in either of Philadelphia's preseason games. It seems safe to say he might not be kept around for much longer.

The new kid in town

Cody Parkey is the undrafted rookie kicker the Eagles acquired in a trade with the Colts on Wednesday. Here's a look at his 2013 stats while kicking for Auburn:

Touchbacks: 69 (led college football)
Field goals: 15/21 (71.4%)
40-49 yards: 5/6 (83.3%)
50+ yards: 1/4 (25.0%)

The touchbacks sure do look good, but the field goal numbers aren't encouraging. Keep in mind that one of Parkey's misses was a 33-yard field goal in the BCS Championship Game.

Parkey the kickoff specialist?

So why did the Eagles trade for Parkey if he's worse than Alex Henery at field goals? It could be because he's better form of competition than Spear. Or perhaps the Eagles are planning to keep a kickoff specialist on the roster. As I mentioned above, Parkey has proved more than capable on kickoffs. During the 2014 NFL preseason, Parkey has recorded a total of 10 kickoff attempts for 6 touchbacks and an average distance of 71.9 yards per kick. That's an impressive figure even though it's a small sample size. For perspective, Carolina Panthers kicker Graham Gano kicked for a league leading 72.0 average distance on kickoffs in 2013.

The only issue here is that the Eagles would have to use a valuable roster spot on a specialist. It remains to be seen if Eagles head coach Chip Kelly, a man obsessed with efficiency and versatility, would consider this possibility.

Predicting how it all plays out

Much to the dismay of Alex Henery detractors, it seems likely that Henery will still retain his job as the Eagles field goal kicker. There just isn't a better proven option out there for now. Kickoffs might be a different story, however. The Eagles might indeed decide to employ Parkey a kickoff specialist. I wouldn't say it's likely but it's something to consider.

Something else to consider if that the Eagles might not be done adding kickers this offseason. There are still a number of teams with two kickers in camp and the Eagles could look to sign one of those players should the right opportunity arise. The Eagles trading for Parkey doesn't necessarily preclude them from going after another kicker after cuts take place.

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