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Free Agent Primer 2021: Special Teams

Cardinals need to find kicker and punter this offseason

P Andy Lee is set to be a free agent after a solid four years with the team.
P Andy Lee is set to be a free agent after a solid four years with the team.

The Cardinals cannonballed into free agency, signing J.J. Watt to a two-year deal. The work isn't done, as GM Steve Keim must fill other holes on the roster this offseason. The new league year begins on Wednesday, March 17, with the legal tampering period opening on Monday, March 15. We will break down each position group as free agency draws near.

Free agent primer: Special Teams

Other free agent primers: CB I WR I LB I TE I DL I RB I S I OL I QB

Cap hit of players under contract for 2021 (via LS Aaron Brewer ($1.2 million); K Brett Maher ($850,000).

Scheduled free agents: K Mike Nugent; P Andy Lee.

Need: High

Analysis: The Cardinals had some high-profile kicker issues a season ago, as Zane Gonzalez missed several important field goal attempts at the end of games. He went on injured reserve late in the year and was released last week prior to his impending free agency, although that doesn't shut the door on a possible return. Gonzalez has a strong leg and has been excellent in stretches during his career, but the Cardinals would have to be satisfied that pressure situations wouldn't negatively affect him in 2021 to bring him back.

Mike Nugent was 7-for-8 on field goals after replacing Gonzalez, but his lack of leg strength is an issue. Veteran Brett Maher was signed after the season and could be part of a competition to be the kicker if the Cardinals don't secure a clear starter in free agency. Maher has a career field goal percentage of 74.2 after struggling with the Cowboys in 2019.

Younghoe Koo had a great season last year for the Falcons and is an unrestricted free agent. Cairo Santos, Nick Folk, Ryan Succop and Cody Parkey are others scheduled to hit the open market.

Andy Lee has been a dependable punter for the past four seasons with the Cardinals but is now an impending free agent. He will be 39 next season, and it remains to be seen if the team will re-sign him or look for a younger option at the position.

The top available punters include Matt Haack, Kevin Huber, Michael Palardy and Pat O'Donnell.

Notable past free agent special teams signings: Phil Dawson (2017); Lee (2017); Brewer (2016); K Chandler Catanzaro (2014); P Drew Butler (2014); P Dave Zastudil (2011); K Jay Feely (2010); K Mike Nugent (2009); LS Mike Leach (2009); P Ben Graham (2008); P Dirk Johnson (2008); K Neil Rackers (2003); LS Nathan Hodel (2001); K Cary Blanchard (2000); K Chris Jacke (1998); P Scott Player (1998); K Joe Nedney (1997); LS Trey Junkin (1996); P Jeff Feagles (1994).

Images of some of the top kickers and punters scheduled to hit the open market