Friday, December 21, 2012

Dan Carpenter lands on IR; Dolphins sign Nate Kaeding

The Miami Dolphins placed their third player of the week on injured reserve Friday, shutting down placekicker Dan Carpenter with a lingering groin injury. The team already placed running back Daniel Thomas and Charles Clay on I.R. earlier this week with knee injuries.

Carpenter, who also battled groin injuries last season, appeared to tweak something on a kickoff early in Week 15 against the Jaguars but still managed a perfect 3-for-3 day on field goals, including a 53-yarder. He struggled with some late-game misses early in the season but has since rebounded, missing only one kick after Week 4.

To replace Carpenter, the Dolphins have signed two-time Pro Bowl kicker Nate Kaeding, presumably to a one-year deal. A two-time Pro Bowler, Kaeding was released by the San Diego Chargers on Oct. 30 and departed as the most accurate kicker in NFL history.

Barring any unforeseen events, Kaeding will serve as the Dolphins' placekicker for the final two weeks of the regular season, vs. Buffalo at home and then on the road in New England. (And, of course, any playoff games the Dolphins have...)


Background

An Iowa City native, Kaeding played college football at the University of Iowa from 2000 to 2003, where he became the Hawkeyes' all-time leading scorer and won the Lou Groza Award in 2002 as the nation's top kicker.

(Coincidentally or not, Dolphins head coach Joe Phlbin was Iowa's offensive line coach during Kaeding's first two seasons there.)

Drafted by the San Diego Chargers in the third round of the 2004 NFL Draft, Kaeding converted 80 percent of his field goals as a rookie before kicking 87.5 percent and 89.7 percent in the next two seasons while earning a Pro Bowl selection in 2006.

In 2008, Kaeding kicked the final five games of the season with a fractured fibula. He set a career high with a 57-yard field goal in 2008 and in 2009 led the NFL in field goal percentage (91.4) on his way to his second Pro Bowl selection.

Kaeding suffered a torn ACL on the opening kickoff of the 2011 season and missed the rest of the year on injured reserve. He returned in 2012 to win back his job and convert his first seven field goal attempts of the season. However, a minor groin injury saw the team place him on I.R. and he was released by the team on Oct. 30.

Despite being the most accurate kicker in NFL history (87 percent) and never having a season under 80 percent, Kaeding's career has had its downs as well. Kaeding has converted just eight of 15 career field goal attempts in the playoffs (53.3 percent), including an 0-for-3 game in the Divisional Round in 2009 that the Jets won 17-14.


Analysis

It's surprising that Dan Carpenter was shut down, considering he seemed to be fine after tweaking something against the Jaguars. However, he was limited in practice this week and perhaps the Dolphins thought it'd be safer to bring in a fresh leg for the final two weeks of the season.

It's fair to wonder if we've seen the last of Carpenter in a Dolphins uniform, or at the very least if he'll face competition in training camp next season. Carpenter rebounded from his early-season struggles in 2012 and has been extremely reliable for much of his career, but he's entering the final year of his contract extension signed in 2010 and is owed a hefty $2.675 million base salary in 2013.

That being said, competition would typically come from a younger source and the 30-year-old Kaeding may simple be a two-week fill-in here. However, it's possible he could earn a contract offer in the offseason if he impresses the team over the next two weeks.

In the short-term, there isn't much to worry about with this signing and Kaeding should be fine for the Dolphins. He'll obviously be adjusting to a new long snapper (John Denney) and holder (Brandon Fields), but he has long been one of the best kickers in the league and is extremely reliable (at least in the regular season) when healthy.