Dec 8, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos kicker Matt Prater (5) walks off the field after the second half against the Tennessee Titans at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos won 51-28. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
The Denver Broncos made a pretty ground shaking move on Friday when they let Matt Prater — the longest tenured player on the team — hit the free agent market.
Currently, Prater is still suspended, and will be reinstated after week five action, but I think the Broncos made the right decision for the long-term by going with Brandon McManus.
Matt Prater, first and foremost, was a risk to be suspended for a full year if he ran into any more trouble with the league. That’s a risk that the Broncos weren’t willing to take due to the fact that Prater is paid in excess of $3 million per season as a kicker. That’s a hefty price to pay, but for the last few years, Prater has made that price worth it.
The Broncos simply have too many impending free agents and spending the kind of money they were on a kicker was not a wise move at this juncture of the franchise and where the roster is currently at.
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In preseason action, you could see that Prater was clearly not in good physical shape. He looked overweight, tired, sullen, and not energetic. Over the last few months, we could see that was playing a major factor in his leg strength and accuracy. Some of this is speculation and perhaps just the camera hitting him at the wrong time, but there’s no doubt Prater didn’t look ‘well’ as the Broncos approached what they hoped to be a Super Bowl season.
The other factor in this that Broncos fans really need to ask themselves is why the team would cut a guy in Prater that they know what they are getting, they know what he brings to the table, and they know what’s been going on with him since he has been on suspension. Why would they cut that guy? There was a risk involved in bringing Prater back, not the least of which was losing Brandon McManus, but the Broncos deemed that the compilation of risks wasn’t worth it.
I hope Prater catches on somewhere that the Broncos won’t have to root against him. He doesn’t deserve to be hated by the fans and he shouldn’t have any hate for the Broncos’ organization either. Prater needs to re-establish himself in this league as a top kicker and work hard off the field to clean up his image. The Broncos didn’t feel like they provided him the best option to do that, otherwise they would have kept him.
Now, the focus turns to largely unproven Brandon McManus, with whom everyone in Broncos country is going to need to be reacquainted.