With NFL teams required to trim their roster down to 75 players by 4:00 PM EST on Tuesday, August 26th, a number of roster cuts are already taking place around the league. The Eagles released 14 players on Saturday and undrafted free agent kicker Carey Spear was among them. The Eagles have two kickers remaining on their roster: incumbent starter Alex Henery, who has struggled, and Cody Parkey, who joined Philadelphia in a trade just last week.
It seems like there might be a reasonable chance neither Henery or Parkey are the solutions to Philadelphia's kicker problem. If that's the case, the Eagles could explore the free agent market. Due to the NFL roster cuts around the league, a number of kickers have become available. Let's look at the options.
Long-time Arizona Cardinals veteran Jay Feely, who is 38 years old, was beat out by undrafted free agent kicker Chandler Catanzaro. Feely is a popular name, but is he actually any good? Not exactly. Feely had a touchback percentage of 37.93% in 2013. Compare that to Henery's already-poor 40% and it's even worse. So far Feely has 0 touchbacks on 5 kickoff attempts in the 2014 NFL preseason.
Feely was 30/35 (85.7%) from field goal range in 2013 with two misses from 50+ and 1 miss in the 20-29 range. He's probably better than Henery (82.1% from FG range) but not by much.
As Jeff McLane notes, Feely's contract would be guaranteed if the Eagles signed him before the season. Philadelphia has plenty of cap space but it still makes him a less attractive option.
Jimmy Kempski of Philly.com put up a good article on Hopkins. Hopkins has recorded 7 touchbacks on 11 total kickoff attempts in the 2014 preseason. His average kickoff distance of 72.4 yards ranks as 8th best. Compare that number to Henery's 6 touchbacks on 14 attempts with an average distance of 70.3 yards. The issue with Hopkins is that he has not even attempted a single field goal during this preseason. During the 2013 preseason, however, Hopkins was 6-6 on field goal attempts. He was 2-2 from 20-29 and 4-4 from 30-39.
The Eagles should definitely keep an eye on Hopkins. The potential problem here is that Hopkins is subject to waivers so there's no guarantee the Eagles will get him. If some team with a higher waiver priority than Philadelphia puts in a claim on Hopkins, he's there. I'm not sure other teams will necessarily be looking to do that but it's something to watch.
Cool name, but hasn't excelled in preseason. Tavecchio has recorded 0 touchbacks on 5 kickoffs and is 1/2 from field goal range. The made attempt came from the 20-29 range whereas the miss was from 50+ yards.
Already on the market
Best options: Rob Bironas, Rian Lindell, David Akers, Garrett Hartley, Neil Rackers.
None of these choices are particularly interesting or inspiring. Like Feely, they will be due fully guaranteed contracts if they are signed before the season.
What should the Eagles do?
If I'm the Eagles, I'm putting a claim in on Hopkins. Hopkins didn't necessarily lose the kicker battle in Buffalo because he was bad; it was just that veteran Dan Carpenter was better.
Elsewhere, despite the fact Feely (or some other veteran) might be slightly better than Henery, I wouldn't be in a rush to sign them.
If the Eagles don't pursue Hopkins and decided to wait, keeping an eye on the New York Giants kicker battle is probably for the best. Either local product Brandon McManus (Temple) or veteran Josh Brown will likely be released from New York. Both options could be an upgrade over Henery.