With 25 current Detroit Lions heading for unrestricted free agency this offseason, it would be easy to overlook Jason Hanson.
That would be a mistake.
While Hanson has not made up his mind if he wants to continue kicking, he told the Free Press that he knows he doesn’t want to do it anywhere but Detroit:
“I’m not interested in playing anywhere else, no way,” Hanson said. “If I can’t do it here, I can’t do it anywhere right now. And with my family — and they know that, so it’s not any secret. So yeah, never say never, but I’m not considering any other options other than getting it done here.”
If Hanson decides he does want to kick, the Lions should be ready with the contract.
He may already be the oldest player in the league but his commitment to his craft has kept him on top of his game. His leg is still strong – he has made two of this three attempts from 50 yards or longer. His leg is still accurate – he has made 88.6% of his 2012 field goal attempts through week 16; better than his career average of 82.3%. Heck, his three punts in emergency duty averaged just two yards less than what Ben Graham and Nick Harris have done this year.
Effectively forcing Hanson into retirement just doesn’t make sense on the face of the situation, and especially when considering the cost of going an alternate route. The best kicker prospects get drafted. Is even a sixth round pick justifiable if a willing and able Hanson is hanging around? I say no, at least not this year.
Going the free agent route could prove expensive, if a long-term upgrade is even available. Hanson is making $2.5 million this year, a relative bargain compared to the preliminary 2013 franchise tag number of $2.926 million for kickers and punters. If you scoff at the notion of a “franchise” kicker, realize that 5 of the 21 players that got hit with the franchise tag last offseason were kickers.
The Lions will face a lot of difficult decisions this offseason but in this case the difficult decision lies with Hanson. If he determines he wants to keep kicking, the Lions can check off one of item from their to-do list with ease.