After nine accrued seasons with the Denver Broncos, kicker Brandon McManus' time has come to an end following the news that the team will officially release the 31-year-old post-June 1st designation and will save the club $3.75M in cap space. While it is sad news for die-hard fans considering McManus was the last active member on the Broncos' roster from their super bowl team in 2015-16, it was the right move considering his recent lack of production and trouble with accuracy of kicks over 50 yards.
In the wake of McManus' release, the team brought in kickers Brett Maher, Parker White, and Elliott Fry for tryouts on Wednesday as they look to fill the hole. The timing of McManus' release is super interesting considering the team just began OTAs on Tuesday and the available talent left in free agency is almost non-existent. However, the Broncos are saving more cap space by waiting until the post-June 1st designation for the release, so it makes sense, especially with the news that the team is bringing back veteran offensive tackle Cam Fleming and dedicating that salary cap appropriately.
Parker White, who was recently released by the Green Bay Packers to make room for former short-tenured Broncos UDFA RB Emanuel Wilson, is trying out for the team and if all goes well, will compete for the starting spot during minicamp and possibly training camp.
White, 24, kicked five years at the University of South Carolina and completed 98.7% of his extra point attempts, 72.7% of his field goal attempts, and also holds the school's record for most individually scored points at 368. His best year came in his final season in 2021 when he completed all of his extra point attempts and missed just one field goal out of 17 attempts. White spent time with the Chiefs and Buccaneers in their 2022 minicamps before eventually signing a futures contract with the Packers earlier this year. It's hard to ignore White's below-average field goal percentage at just 72.7% and because of that, I would personally pass on making him the team's starting kicker but would be on board bringing him in for competition purposes during camp. When asked to kick at a high volume, White seemed to struggle the most.
Making the case for the Denver Broncos to sign Brett Maher
Following the news that the Broncos were bringing in Maher for a tryout, fans took to social media to immediately bash the front office for even considering signing the 33-year-old veteran. During the 2022 postseason, Maher became infamously known for his kicking woes against the Buccaneers in which he missed four straight extra point attempts and was immediately clowned on by the media.
The next game against the 49ers, Maher completes both of his field goal attempts and has an extra point attempt blocked in which the blame does not fall entirely on him. Aside from his sole poor performance against the Buccaneers in the wild-card round, fans have absolutely nothing else against his game. In fact, Maher has been nearly flawless as of late in his career.
In 2022, Maher completed 90.6% of his field goal attempts (29-32), 94.3% of his extra point attempts (50-53), 9 of his 11 field goal attempts from 50+, and a season-long field goal of 60 yards. His field goal completion percentage ranks 7th among kickers who played a full season in 2022 above players like Justin Tucker, Younghoe Koo, and Tyler Bass. That's elite company.
It just goes to show how much recency bias fans have against players and it blows my mind how quickly they choose to completely discredit all of the success a player had previous to a fluke performance. I will never understand it. Just like cornerbacks get beat in coverage from time to time, even Patrick Surtain ll had a bad game against DJ Moore and the Panthers last season, kickers have poor performances as well. Missing extra point attempts has not been a consistently liable issue for Maher over the course of his career therefore, I would not stress this at all.
Maher was one of the league's best kickers last season but receives almost no credit due to one game in the playoffs. Meanwhile, McManus was the league's eighth highest-paid kicker in the league last season however, his poor 77.8% field goal completion percentage is completely blown out of the water by Maher's 90.6%.
In 2019, Maher had his worst season completing just 66.7% of his field goal attempts with the Cowboys however, bounced back with the Saints in 2021 under new Broncos head coach Sean Payton. In only 8 games, he completed 16 of his 18 field goal attempts.
According to Denver Gazette's Chris Tomasson, the Broncos are not expected to sign any of their three tryout kickers on Wednesday as they continue to "assess their options". However, Maher is getting a physical, possibly hinting that the team hopes to sign him in the coming days.
With Maher's recent success and McManus' recent struggles, it wouldn't be a far stretch to say Maher would be an upgrade for the team. With a much cheaper contract, Maher can immediately step in as the team's starting kicker in week 1, given his past experience with Sean Payton, and his overall experience in the NFL. At the end of the day, fans should not be anxious over who the next starting kicker is but more so if the offense is performing well enough to not put their kicker in scenarios to hurt the team's chances of winning games. Maher should serve well for the Broncos if given the opportunity. Worst case scenario, the Broncos are looking for a new young kicker late in the draft or perhaps early in the UDFA pool next offseason. For what it's worth, at this point in the offseason, the Broncos do not have many options to pick from.