While the Jets have been busy releasing players and creating cap room for the offseason, Mike Nugent chose to make a decision of his own for the front office regarding his future.
With an expiring contract, the former second-round draft pick from Ohio State believed it would be in his best interest to find a new opportunity elsewhere.
Nugent spent the first-half of the final year of his rookie contract nursing an injury sustained in Week One, and spent the second-half watching Jay Feely continue a hot streak.
Consistency is something never to be toyed with in the NFL.
Unfortunately for Nugent, his situation with New York was never an issue of consistency. It all revolved around expectations, and how he struggled to meet them.
The Leg Was Never Quite There
When a kicker is selected early in the NFL Draft, he better be good. When quality kickers find teams as undrafted free agents, it always comes as a shock when a team uses a pick on one.
But that isn’t Nugent’s fault. He was selected immediately after a playoff loss where New York was a field goal away from the AFC Championship game.
The pick made sense in the skewed, “this is all we need for a Super Bowl run,” kind of way.
Unfortunately, Nugent’s leg wasn’t the same as advertised. It wasn’t significantly better than other kickers who walked onto the field in training camp.
And that’s what bothered Jets’ fans most. It wasn’t that Nugent failed to be an elite kicker of Rob Bironas or Neil Rackers stature.
It’s that his best was about average.
He was good for a 19-consecutive field goal streak. He has an 81.5% career average, and a 54-yard career-long.
But those kickoffs! They were painful to watch! A Mike Nugent kickoff would rarely force the team to start at the 20-yard line.
In 205 career-kickoffs, Nugent has only recorded 12 touchbacks. Jay Feely had seven in 2008 with 80 kickoffs.
Special-teams is all about field position. Nugent could never justify that.
Age and Potential
How long is too long to invest in potential?
While Nugent’s final season was spent on the bench, it’s difficult to shake the feeling that there’s more in store for him in his career. Maybe it is because of where he was drafted.
Could the scouts have been that wrong with him? There’s a reason he was so highly-touted out of college.
The subtle differences between the oblong balls from the collegiate to the professional level isn’t so significant than Nugent can’t become who he was expected to be.
Given the information, it makes sense to let him walk and never look back. But there’s always the fear that he was still developing, only to find that stride with another team.
And with the Jets’ luck, it’ll be with a division rival, and in a game with playoff implications as the clock ticks away.