Justin Rogers | The Detroit News
Kicker Matt Prater has made it known he would like to be back with the Detroit Lions next season, but there’s no guarantee that will happen as he prepares for free-agency.
The first issue is money. Even though general manager Brad Holmes has rejected the notion the Lions are rebuilding, trading quarterback Matthew Stafford suggests otherwise.
Prater’s last deal paid him $3.8 million per season, an average that currently ranks 11th for the position. He’ll likely be looking to re-up for somewhere in that range, and that’s a questionable use of resources for a team not expected to compete this season and probably next.
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Second, the Lions have to entertain the possibility Prater’s uncharacteristic struggles in 2020 weren’t a fluke. He made just 75% of his field-goal attempts last season, well off his career pace and among the worst rates in the league.
The Lions already have an insurance policy, Matthew Wright, who went undrafted out of Central Florida in 2019 and is a perfect 11-11 on his field-goal and extra-point attempts during his brief career, with a long of 46 yards.
There’s also the NFL Draft, where Miami’s Jose Borregales and Florida’s Evan McPherson are widely viewed as the best prospects. And if the Lions were to go that route, the first thing special-teams coordinator Dave Fipp is scouting is mental makeup.
How does one evaluate a kicker’s mental makeup. Well, there’s the obvious review of how they handled big situations in games, but just as importantly for Fipp, it’s the ability to quickly move past a mistake.
“Probably the most important thing is upstairs — the ability to forget a kick and let those things go,” Fipp said. “It’s obviously a high-pressure position on a football team, those guys win and lose football games, it comes down to them (sometimes). But I would say consistency, and just a really strong mind-set are the two most important things.
“You look at their whole body of work and see how they’ve done in situations like that in the past and you can kind of predict what you’re going to get in the future. But I think more than anything, you just got to talk to a lot of people who have been around him, especially in these times with the COVID. You can’t get out as much.”
Fipp has been in touch with Prater, reaching out to the veteran his first day on the job. There’s a reverence for both him and longtime long snapper Don Muhlbach — who is scheduled to be a free agent — for what the two have been able to accomplish during their careers.
The question remains: Will those careers continue in Detroit next season?
“These guys are great players who have done amazing things in this league,” Fipp said. “I’ve competed against them and really have a high opinion of both those guys. I think they’re really special people, I know their contract situations have some degree of uncertainty, and that’s not really my position, so I’m not going to give you any answers today. … But yeah, I think really highly of both those guys and we’ll see what happens.”