The Carolina Panthers shocked the world on Monday when they traded a 4th round pick and punter Kasey Redfern to the Cleveland Browns for punter Andy Lee. This was shocking because I thought for sure that the Panthers were going to trade for Denver Broncos Britton Colquitt, who became available for trade on Sunday. I definitely didn’t see the Lee deal coming.
If you needed more evidence that the Panthers are in “win-now” mode, here you go. The last time the Panthers had a good punter was over ten years ago when Todd Sauerbrun was booting balls to the return man.
Do you want to know why the offense was so good last year? Because they were afraid to put Brad Nortman on the field. They knew that they had to get into field goal range to keep Nortman off the field because he’d scuff a punt 20 yards and set up the opposing offense with great field position. It’s also the reason Ron Rivera became Riverboat Ron. He figured turning the ball over on downs around midfield would be better than Nortman failing to angle the ball out of bounds and giving up a big return that would’ve put the defense in the same position.
Now, the Panthers finally have an offensive safety valve. If Cam and Crew can’t get the job, fear not, Andy Lee will pin the other team inside the 20 and let Luke and Crew work from there.
Who is Andy Lee? That’s a good question. Before today, I had never heard of the guy. You can’t really expect me to know the punter for the Cleveland Browns. I don’t even know who their non-Johnny Manziel quarterback was last year.
After a quick google search, here’s what I found out about Andy Lee: He’s 34, and he’s been an All-Pro three times. He also shares a name with an Irish boxer who is nicknamed “Irish.”
He was also lambasted by his coach Hue Jackson for his lack of effort in a pre-season game against the Buccaneers. I watched the play. Brown gets off a great kick and then decides to pretty much give up on the play as Adam Humphries runs past him. Can you blame the guy? After what Antonio Brown did to a punter, I don’t know why any punter tries to make a tackle. And what if he got hurt in a meaningless pre-season game? You know the Browns are going to punt the ball a lot, Lee was the most important player on the team. The franchise guy can’t be trying to make a tackle in pre-season. A punters job is to punt the football. He did that. If you want him to tackle as well, add that to his job title.
My concern with Andy Lee is that he’s been with the Browns too long. I know it was only one season, but that’s still too long. One game is too long to be with the Browns, so spending an entire season with them is like going on a week long vacation with your in-laws that you hate. In the grand scheme of thing, a week isn’t that bad, but that’s the most miserable week of your year, and it’s not even close. You know he’s used to being miserable and that he’s picked up some bad habits.
I would hope that Lee sees this as a fresh start. He no longer walks into the stadium with his head down, knowing he’s about to sit on the sidelines for 57-minutes while watching his team get the shit kicked out of them. He’s going to the NFC Champions and a team that expects to be back in the Super Bowl. He gets to be on a team that knows how to win, and that enjoys winning. He can’t be walking into the locker room with that sad face and Cleveland attitude. He needs to put on a smile and learn how to dance.
Some are concerned that the Panthers gave up too much to get a punter. A 4th round pick might seem like a lot, but is it really? How many 4th round picks turn out to be Pro Bowl players? Since 2007 (not including the 2016 draft), there have been 14 Pro Bowlers drafted in the fourth round. So, out of 288 draft picks (not including compensatory picks, which would add another 20-25 picks to the total. And, for the record, two of the 14 Pro Bowlers were 4th round compensatory picks), about 4% of those players turn into Pro Bowl players.
Sure, the Panthers may’ve found the next Geno Atkins or Julius Thomas in the 2018 draft, but they got a guy who is guaranteed to improve the team this year and hopefully the next couple of year’s as well. And yeah, Lee is owed $10.4 million over the next three years, but that Josh Norman money had to go to someone. May as well go to the biggest impact player on all punting plays.