<
>

Johnny Hekker gets $9M guaranteed

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The subject line in the official St. Louis Rams release announcing a six-year contract extension with punter Johnny Hekker on Friday is titled "Punters get paid like people, too."

According to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, Hekker is now being paid like only a select few people in the world, and unlike any other punter or kicker in league history. Sources told Schefter that the deal is worth $18 million, with a $9 million guarantee -- the largest guarantee ever given to a kicker or punter. The contract will keep Hekker in St. Louis through 2020.

"It's just such a blessing to be considered for an extension and to have the opportunity to stick with an organization for this long and potentially be a Ram for nine years, that means a lot to me and my family and everyone that has supported me to this moment in my life," Hekker said. "I think this is a really big moment but in no way does this deter me from still wanting to be the best punter ever. So I have got to really give this team their money's worth."

Hekker was one of two Rams Pro Bowlers in 2013, joining defensive end Robert Quinn for the trip to Hawaii. It's no coincidence that the Rams have now signed both to lengthy and lucrative contract extensions during the season. Quinn inked a six-year extension in September.

The Rams originally signed Hekker as an undrafted free agent in 2012 out of Oregon State. He's quickly emerged as a key piece of the team's long-term plans.

"The evaluation process when he came in here, we knew he was a tremendous athlete and all that, but then his ability to throw the football and what he'd done in high school," coach Jeff Fisher said. "That's the kind of guy we want back there running the punt team for us."

In 2013, Hekker set an NFL record for net punting average in a season at 44.2 yards, and opponents are averaging 6.7 yards per return against him in his three seasons, which is second-lowest in the league in that span. This season, Hekker's 41.4 net average is sixth in the NFL.

Beyond the punting, Hekker has become a formidable threat for fakes because of passing proficiency. In his three seasons, Hekker is 5-of-6 passing for 79 yards and a touchdown for a passer rating of 158.3. All of his completions have gone for either touchdowns or first downs.

"No, [there's] no verbiage on first-down passes," Hekker said, laughing. "But that's something I'm still going to look to do in the future."