The hopes of quarterback Aaron Rodgers aside, the Green Bay Packers' top post-lockout priority has always appeared to be ensuring the return of place-kicker Mason Crosby. In the end, that's exactly how it worked out.
Overnight, the Packers agreed to terms on a five-year contract with Crosby. Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported the deal is worth $14.75 million, including $3 million guaranteed. Those are some eye-popping numbers, but keep in mind that the Oakland Raiders busted up the place-kicker market last year by re-signing Sebastian Janikowski to a four-year deal worth $16 million, including $9 million in guarantees.
Some of you would suggest that Crosby and Janikowski don't belong in the same sentence, and it's true that Crosby hasn't put up the kind of accuracy numbers you would hope to see from an elite kicker. In fact, he has the lowest conversion rate (78.1) among all place-kickers with 100 attempts since he entered the league in 2007, according to the database at pro-football-reference.com.
But the Packers have tended to grade Crosby on a curve for two reasons. First, his strong leg has prompted 21 attempts from 50 yards or longer. He has missed 11 of them. Subtract those attempts, and his career conversion percentage is 83.6.
Second, coach Mike McCarthy has placed value in the institutional knowledge Crosby has gained from kicking at Lambeau Field for four seasons. It isn't the worst conditions in the NFL, but it's unpredictable and potentially extreme and can certainly have a psychological impact on kickers.
I don't think the Packers could have done better if they opened up the job this summer. I've seen it with my own eyes: A palatable unease can settle on a training camp that opens without a proven place-kicker on the roster. McCarthy might encounter some headaches this summer, but this decision means they aren't likely to come from the kicking game.