The Miami Dolphins have locked one one of their most valuable pieces to a long-term deal, as reports indicate punter Brandon Fields has agreed to a four-year contract extension with the team through the 2016 season.
Okay, so perhaps Fields being one of the Dolphins' MVPs might say more about the team's struggles in recent years than it does his own abilities and production, but there is no doubt Fields is one of the elite punters in the NFL and locking him up is a good thing.
According to the numbers broken down by Ben Volin of the Palm Beach Post, Fields' contract is worth just over $13 million with $3.3 million in guaranteed money, making him the fifth-highest paid punter in the league.
Set to make $1.424 million this upcoming season on a three-year extension signed back in 2010, Fields was one of 35 players on the Dolphins' roster entering a contract year in 2012, including one of 26 unrestricted free agents heading into the 2013 offseason. (Those numbers could of course change depending on who does and doesn't make the team.)
Now, Fields joins pass rusher Cameron Wake as the second player on the team signed through the 2016 season. (You can always see all the Dolphins' future free agents here.) His other two special teams mates—placekicker Dan Carpenter and long snapper John Denney—are currently signed through 2013.
Quite simply, this is a great move by the Dolphins as it maintains consistently within one of the best special teams units in the game while locking up an elite punter to a fair market contract through his age 32 season.
Fields has appeared in all 80 games with the Dolphins since being drafted in the seventh round in 2007 out of Michigan State, where he was a two-time All-Big Ten selection. (The Big Ten actually renamed its annual punting award to the Eddleman-Fields Punter of the Year in 2010, in part to honor Fields.)
In Miami, Fields has consistently improved his production over five seasons, culminating with his best season to date in 2011. Although he has yet to make a Pro Bowl thanks to the existence of the immortal Shane Lechler, Fields set or tied personal highs last season in punting yards (3,810), net yards (3,207), punting average (48.2), net average (41.1), punts downed (nine) and punts inside the opponents' 20 (32).
Fields' punting average ranked second in the AFC (behind Lechler) and his net average ranked second in the AFC as well (behind the Patriots' Zoltan Mesko). His 32 punts inside the 20 were tied for third in the NFL, but he accomplished that total in just 78 total punts, whereas the two punters ahead of him in that category had 95 and 101 punts on the season.
With Fields' contract extension wrapped up, expect the Dolphins to approach Carpenter and Denney about extensions next offseason as the team looks to keep its special teams unit, which has become a highly-productive and well-oiled machine, intact for years to come.
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